April Barbe and Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
CHEROKEE COUNTY —
It was Easter Sunday, April 1, 1934.
It was Texas Highway Patrolman H.D. Murphy's first official day on
It was also his last day.
Murphy, 22, of Alto, and Officer Edward Wheeler were shot and killed near Grapevine that morning by notorious outlaws, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
The stories of the infamous duo have been told time and time again, but for Cherokee County the stories hit too close to home.
On Thursday, a collage of Murphy was donated for display at Cherokee County Courthouse in Rusk by the County Historical Commission, and will hang across the hall from where a display of other fallen law enforcement agents from the county is located.
“The highway patrolman that we're honoring was just a young, young man in the prime of life,” said Judge Bascom Bentley of the 369th Judicial District, who serves in Rusk.
“I started this because (society) wants to romanticize Bonnie and Clyde, but they were nothing but two cold-blooded killers,” he said. “When I walk in here, I think of those (fallen officers) and realize they gave their lives trying to protect us, and to die like that, somewhere on a highway or back alley, (killed) by some coward, we need to remember them. I'm proud that Cherokee County has done this (for these officers).”
Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis – who along with Bentley and two others are part of a preservation committee for the courthouse – agreed, recalling that as a child, he was among those who romanticized the couple after seeing the movie featuring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beaty.
“Everything in that movie glorified (them) and as I was growing up, I thought they were really neat, (but) as I got older, I met people, and I found out about H.D. Murphy,” Davis said.
Holloway Daniel Murphy “was a little boy there in Alto, and he was friends with and went to school with my next door neighbor, Virgil Schochler, and I realized the story of how he lived and died … (and) when this new Bonnie and Clyde documentary came out, that's when Judge Bentley said, 'we need to do something. We need his picture on the wall,' so we got together with Deborah (Burkett of the county Historical Commission),” he said.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page's website, www.odmp.org, the two patrolmen had stopped their motorcycles believing a motorist needed assistance. As they approached the vehicle, the two outlaws opened fire with a shotgun and handgun, killing both officers.
Murphy had served with the Texas Department of Public Safety for six months and was survived by his fiancée, Maree Tullis. He is buried in the Old Palestine Cemetery near Alto. The cemetery is located about four miles east of Alto.
Murphy holds the record for being the youngest Texas Highway Patrolman killed in the line of duty, according to officials.
The Bonnie and Clyde Gang was responsible for the murder of law enforcement officers in four states - Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas – between 1932 and 1934, according to www.odmp.org.
Parker and Barrow started their criminal career by robbing banks and quickly became notorious murderers wanted for the deaths of nine law enforcement officers.
The two criminals were finally shot and killed in Louisiana when they were ambushed by a task force of Texas and Louisiana officers.
Holding the collage in his hands, Davis told the group gathered for Thursday's dedication, “I think when you see these photographs, you'll see the person who was killed here,” and not just a nameless, minor character in movies glorifying Bonnie and Clyde.
“It's a tragic story, and it's something that should have never, ever been made anything less than it was. This is a story in itself, where a human being died that shouldn't have ... for just pure, cold-blooded murder,” Davis said.