Facts and Events
John Henry "Doc" Holliday (August 14, 1851 – November 8, 1887) was an American gambler, gunfighter, and dentist of the American Old West who is usually remembered for his friendship with Wyatt Earp and his involvement in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
As a young man, Holliday earned a D.D.S. degree from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery and set up a dental practice in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1873 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, the same disease that had claimed his mother when he was 15. He moved to the American Southwest in hopes that the climate would prolong his life. Taking up gambling as a profession, he subsequently acquired a reputation as a deadly gunman.
During his travels, he met and became a good friend of Wyatt Earp and his brothers. In 1880, he moved to Tombstone, Arizona, and participated alongside the Earps in the famous gunfight at the OK Corral. This did not settle matters between the two sides, and Holliday was embroiled in ensuing shootouts and killings. He successfully fought being extradited for murder and died in bed at a Colorado hotel at the age of 36.
The legend and mystique of his life is so great that he has been mentioned in countless books and portrayed by various actors in numerous movies and television series. For the 125-plus years since his death, debate has continued about the exact crimes he may have committed.
Photo of his tombstone on FindAGrave.com.
Information on "Doc" Holliday
From the Kansas Heritage website, quoting Doc Holiday by John Myers:S1
Maj. Holliday also had served in the Mexican War, after which he brought back a Mexican boy who had been orphaned, named Francisco Hidalgo. Alice McKey Holliday died of tuberculosis (or "consumption") in 1866, when John was 12 years old; it is believed he had contracted the disease from her, as it was not yet known to be communicable. Also, Francisco, John's adopted brother, later died of tuberculosis, so he must have contracted it from one of the two (or both).
For many years it was believed that John attended dental school in Baltimore, but the three main dental schools in Baltimore had no record of a "J. H. Holliday" ever having attended school there. But through the efforts of Dr. L. C. Holtzendorff (Valdosta, Georgia), Dr. Donald Washburn (American Dental Association Librarian Services, Chicago), and Mr. John Whittock (Librarian, School of Dental Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia), it finally was determined and verified that "John H. Holliday" graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery in 1872.
In the west, Doc was an unusual character of his time. He was a well-educated man in a region where formal education was not generally regarded as important. He was fluent in Latin and played the piano (his mother taught piano for many years). He loved being a dentist, but because his patients didn't like their dentist coughing in their faces, it was difficult for him to keep customers. He discovered that he had a real talent for playing cards, however, and established himself as quite a good gambler, for which he was well respected. But he was also a moody, fatalistic man dying from an incurable disease. He drank a lot, and thought a lot about death. It's widely thought that his fatalism about his impending death made him fearless in a gunfight; he had nothing to lose. That's why he was always so quick to get involved in the battles with the Earps. Doc liked to dress up in fancy clothes and assume a very sophisticated demeanor, and he was regarded as quite a funny gentleman with a lively sense of humor.
Wyatt Earp came to like Holliday's style, and after they met in Shanessy's saloon in Fort Griffin, Texas, they immediately became friends. Wyatt said later that Holliday was "the nerviest, speediest man with a six-shooter I ever knew" and was "probably the most dangerous man in Tombstone." At the OK Corral, it is said by witnesses that the three Earp brothers all were dressed in black with grim expressions on their faces, while Doc was nattily clad in grey and was whistling.
Doc went to Dodge City in 1877 as a result of the following incident: He became involved in a gambling episode with Ed Bailey in Fort Griffin, which resulted in Doc's leaving there. Bailey drew a gun and Doc let him have it with a knife. Bailey collapsed and died. Even though, according to the law, Doc was in the right (having acted in self-defense), he was arrested and incarcerated in a local hotel room, there being no jail in the town. It was evident that Bailey was a popular man among the townspeople, and it seemed that Doc was doomed in spite of the circumstances. The story is that "Big-Nose Kate" Elder came to Doc's rescue by setting fire to the back of the hotel, thereby creating a diversion. Kate, armed with a pistol, then proceeded to the hotel room, got the drop on the deputy town marshal who had been left in charge of the prisoner, and set Doc free. Kate and Doc hid out during the night, and when morning came, they headed for Dodge City. Once in Dodge, Doc renewed his friendship with Wyatt.
Doc had a falling out with an outlaw named Mike Gordon in late August 1879. Inviting Gordon out into the street, Doc then shot him dead. Doc had to leave town quickly because of word that he was about to be arrested. This led him back to Dodge City, to which Doc was glad to return. He found that Wyatt had resigned his job as one of Dodge City's marshals and had gone to Tombstone. Doc then went to Tombstone himself, to join up with his friend. According to John Myers, "Doc had travelled in haste -- would have entailed driving the wagons up some awkward grades. Leaving Trail City in the number two rig of the Earp caravan, Wyatt heard hoof-beats in pursuit. 'Where are you going, Wyatt?' the rider who caught up with him asked. 'Tombstone' Earp said. 'That's what they told me in Dodge,' Doc replied. 'Guess I'll go with you.'"
By May 1887 (according to Myers), "the consumption so racked him that he could hardly keep on his feet. As a realist, Doc was not one to believe in miraculous cures, but as a man of action he refused to stop in his tracks while there was a chance of going on. The sulphur vapors at Glenwood Springs, Colorado, were ballyhooed as being medicine's final answer to the evil challenge of tuberculosis. On the off-chance that this was true, Doc went out to the health resort to play his last chip."
Doc Holliday died in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, at a sanitarium. It is said that during the last couple of months of his life, he got out of bed perhaps twice. Witnesses at his bedside say that just before he died he asked for a glass of whiskey, sipped it down, and smiled, then looked at his bare feet and said, "this is funny." He had always expected he would die someday with his boots on.