IN SEARCH OF BONNIE AND CLYDE
Coffey: Platte County Hero
By Mark Vasto
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth
part of The Landmarks Bonnie and Clyde series.
To read the first three parts of the story which outline
the background of Bonnie and Clyde, Platte County Sheriff
Holt Coffey and the epic gunfight the two parties had
outside of Platte City, please visit our website at
www.plattecountylandmark.com or visit our office at
252 Main Street, Platte City.)
Former Platte County Sheriff Holt Coffey
has largely been overlooked in history as the man who
scuttled the original Barrow gang after a gun fight
in Platte County during the summer of 1933. According
to his daughter, Nancy Cockrill, that would probably
be OK with him.
My father was a kind and very gentle
man, Cockrill told The Landmark. It never
occurred to him to prove his manhood because he just
always was a strong man. There was never any question.
Coffey made his reputation at the Red
Crown Tavern, which grew in popularity for Platte City
residents after the shootout. Locals from miles around
would visit the spot, which is now the entrance ramp
for KCI airport on I-29, and partake in the festive
atmosphere. According to Cockrill, after serving as
Sheriff from 1933 - 1937 and a second term from 1941
to 1945, Coffey actually owned and operated the establishment
It was a honky tonk place,
recalls George Ann Coffey, a cousin of Cockrills.
The women would get all dressed up and wear pretty
dresses and white gloves. The men would drink beer;
the women would not!
The Red Crown eventually burned down in
1967 and what was left standing at the site was stripped
by souvenir hounds. Merchants in Weston actually sold
bricks from the building for $1 a piece on the street
during the late 60s. Although numerous inquiries
have been made to erect a memorial or provide some sort
of museum at the site, no attempt or formal request
to the Platte County Commission has ever been made.
Coffey went on to become a presiding judge
of Platte County in 1956, a position that is referred
to as county commissioner today. Coffey passed away
during his first elected term in 1964. He was 72-years-old.
I dont think Dad enjoyed anything
more than being a sheriff, Cockrill told The Landmark.
He was really, at his heart, a lawman.
Cockrill said shes always been surprised
at how interested people were in Bonnie and Clyde.
The mere mention of the word seems
to excite people, Cockrill said. What people
dont remember is how scared everyone was of them
at the time. They were executed because people were
so afraid of them. It became a very serious matter to
try and trap them.
Cockrill said her father expressed concern
about the bandits legacy.
One of these days theyre going
to make a movie on Bonnie and Clyde, Coffey told
his skeptical daughter. The only thing that bothers
me is that theyre going to be portrayed as cute...and
maybe they were before they stepped over the line and
Cockrill said that her father likened
the two to mad dogs.
Life is a matter of choice, and
they continued making wrong ones, Coffey asserted
at the time.
Cockrill recalls a particularly touching
conversation the two had on the matter.
Just once, Id like for them
to publish the names of all of the people Bonnie and
Clyde murdered, Coffey said to his daughter. That
would put things in more perspective.
You know, Dad, his daughter
replied, ...they never do that.
Youre so right, Coffey
Coffey, who correctly guessed the desperadoes
holed up at The Red Crown were the notorious Bonnie
and Clyde and correctly prophesied the making of a movie
detailing their exploits (which was produced in 1967),
was wrong on that count.
The Victims of Bonnie and Clyde
John N.Bucher of Hillsboro, Texas: Died April 30,1932
Eugene Moore of Atoka, Oklahoma: Died August 5,1932
Howard Hall of Sherman, Texas: Died October 11,1932
Doyle Johnson of Temple, Texas: Died December 26,1932
Malcolm Davis of Dallas, Texas: Died January 6,1933
Harry McGinnis of Joplin, Missouri: Died April 13,1933
Wes Harryman of Joplin, Missouri: Died April 13,1933
Henry D. Humphrey of Alma, Arkansas: Died June 26,1933
Major Crowson of Huntsville, Texas: Died January 16,1934
E.B. Wheeler of Grapevine, Texas: Died April 1, 1934
H.D. Murphy of Grapevine, Texas: Died April 1, 1934
Cal Campbell of Commerce, Oklahoma: Died April 6, 1934
(Mark Vasto, Landmark reporter, would
like to graciously thank the Platte County residents,
particularly LaVerne Taulbee, John Jackson and Diane
Pepper of the Platte City Historical Society, The Coffey
family, Delbert and Dixie Crabtree and the numerous
readers who visited and called The Landmark in support
during the run of the series.
To discuss Bonnie and Clyde or to ask Vasto any questions
regarding this story, readers are invited to participate
in the Landmarks online Talkback forum, located