April 27th, 1933 likely started out as an ordinary day for H. Dillard Darby, a 30-year-old mortician living in Ruston, Louisiana. Mr. Darby seemed to be doing well for himself as an undertaker at B.F. McLure Funeral Parlor, and had recently purchased a sleek black Ford V8 Coach automobile. On this particular day, Mr. Darby was having lunch at Brooks Boarding House where he lived.
As it turned out, the notorious Clyde Barrow gang was also in Ruston that day, and they were in search of a car. They spied Darby’s automobile and much to his surprise, an ordinary lunch became anything but that as he witnessed the gang helping themselves to his car.
Accounts of what followed Darby’s discovery of the theft vary somewhat but most agree that he chased after the gang, first on foot and then in the car of another boarder, Sophia Stone. At the time, he probably had no idea just who he was up against. Neither did Ms. Stone since it is unlikely she would have ridden along with Darby had she known the thiefs were the Barrow gang.
Maybe because he was an undertaker, Dillard was not a man to fear death. He convinced a fellow boarder, Sophie Stone, to let him use her auto to pursue the thieves. In the rush of the moment she agreed and found herself tagging along. After momentarily losing sight of his car, Dillard saw it again a few blocks away at a stoplight, W.D. at the wheel. Sliding closer, the forlorn undertaker failed to notice the rest of the Barrows in their original car behind him. They had been following the stolen car to a prescribed junction on the outskirts of town. Bonnie chuckled, watching Dillard shake his fists violently at W.D. as he edged closer, unaware of the hornet’s nest he was being suckered into. At the pre-arranged location, in a less-traveled area, W.D. halted and got out of the car. Seeing this, Dillard braced for fisticuffs. “I’ll show him a thing or two,” he told Sophie. But, it was then he noticed the reinforcements rolling up behind, their faces crinkled in grins.
Darby’s rush to protect his vehicle lead him and Ms. Stone directly into the hands of the country’s most dangerous outlaw gang. They were now captives of Bonnie and Clyde.
Whether the famous duo was amused by Darby’s bold action or simply liked the pair we’ll never know. We do know from first hand accounts that after some physical altercations, they chatted amiably. It is told that it was Bonnie who insisted that there was no point in killing Darby and Stone. While the story is told in a variety of ways, Bonnie apparently saw the irony in the fact that Darby was an undertaker. She went so far as to tell Darby that she hoped that he would have the chance to work on them when the time came. Not only did Bonnie and Clyde release the two, Clyde gave them $5 to help them get home.
Less than a year later on May 23, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down by authorities in an ambush on a rural road in Louisiana. Darby and Stone were called to identify the bodies. It is said that Darby was able to honor Bonnie’s wish and assist in the embalming.
Darby died in 1973 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Ruston, Louisiana. Stone later married and became Sophia Stone Cook. She died in 2000 at the age of 92 and is buried in Cook Cemetery, also in Ruston.