America’s most notorious Depression-era crime couple ruined the wedding of an East Texas couple 12 days before they were set to say “I Do.”
H.D. Murphy and Maree Tullis were high school sweethearts at Alto High School in Cherokee County during the early 1930s.
“Their school days brought forth a friendship that ripened into love that was to end in marriage had not H.D. been so cruelly murdered by Bonnie and Clyde,” said Deborah Burkett, president of the Cherokee County Historical Society.
After graduation, Murphy was accepted into the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the couple was set to start their life anew in an apartment in Fort Worth, said Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis, who personally knew Murphy’s family. At the time, a state job was a big deal because it meant a steady paycheck, Davis said.
“That was really good,” Davis said. “He got a state job, and he had a bright future. His first day of duty was on a Easter Sunday.”
April 1, 1934 was Murphy’s first day out of training for the motorcycle unit, said Ms. Burkett. He and his partner Edward Wheeler stopped to help what they thought was a stranded motorist on a desolate stretch of Texas Highway 114, near present-day Southlake.
The two officers instead ran into Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow and one of their gang members, and were shot down with buckshot before they could draw their pistols or duck for cover behind their motorcycles.
The gangsters likely had family members in the area and were hiding out from police, according to the Southlake Historical Society.
“They turned around, and they shot him in the back with a load of buckshot,” Davis said.
Edwards was killed at the scene, and Murphy was taken to a local hospital where he died from his wounds, Davis said.
The family was unable to make it to the hospital before he died.
“Driving from Alto to Dallas back then was a day’s drive — easy,” Davis said.
Murphy’s betrothed wore her white wedding dress to the funeral instead of black, Ms. Burkett said. Her wedding day was scheduled for April 13, she said.
“Hollywood romanticized the life of Bonnie and Clyde while Officer H.D. Murphy lies in a cold grave in the Old ,Palestine Cemetery just east of Alto along with all of his shattered dreams of life and love,” Ms. Burkett said.
Davis said Ms. Tullis never married and was buried in the Alto City Cemetery in 1978.
Murphy holds the record of the youngest highway patrol officer killed in the line of duty at 24 years old and a record for the shortest tenure within the organization, Ms. Burkett said.
“Everything about the story is tragic …” Davis said. “We make heroes out of criminals and forget about a young life that was just starting in public service. … He had his whole future planned out for him, and it was snatched away from him, and they are glorified. I just don’t want him forgotten.”
Bonnie and Clyde murdered a total of 13 people during their days of robbing banks, according to the FBI’s website. The incident became known as the “Grapevine Murders” and is considered a turning point for the public’s opinion of the couple, Ms. Burkett said.
The infamous couple was shot to death in an ambush near Sailes, La., about six weeks later on May 23, 1934, according to the FBI. Officers hid in bushes and waited for the gangsters’ car to enter the driveway. The pair was killed instantly.
In homage of Cherokee County’s fallen trooper, the local historical society and courthouse preservation committee put a plaque to honor him inside the front of the Cherokee County Courthouse. The visible reminder was put up last week and is visible to the public during normal courthouse hours.
“I think it good to put a personal side to the victim rather than glorifying the criminals,” Davis said.