John “Doc” Holliday – Famous Dentist and Gunfighter

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Doc Holliday

Doc Holliday was diagnosed with tuberculosis early in life and was a fatalist whose intentions were to go out in a blaze of glory.

John Henry Holliday was born in Georgia on August, 14th in 1851 to Henry Burroughs Holliday and mother Alice Jane Holliday. In 1866 John’s mother Alice died when he was 15 of tuberculosis, a disease she unknowingly passed along to her son.

He entered dental school in 1872 at 19 years of age in Philadelphia. Within a year he was diagnosed with tuberculosis which he had contracted through his mother.

Holliday Moves Out West

In 1873 Doc Holliday moved to Dallas, Texas, because he was told the drier weather would be better for his health. It was during this time that John developed his fatalistic attitude towards life and also discovered he had a talent for gambling.

By 1875 he became a professional gambler, where being able to play your cards were not the only skills you needed and disputes were settled with fists, knives or pistols, so Holliday deliberately became efficient in the use of the tools of the trade.

Doc Holliday Earns His Reputation

His first gunfight occurred in 1875 with a saloon keeper named Austin; although both combatants were uninjured, both were arrested. From this time forward Doc drank heavily (it helped control the coughing) and his temper and constitution worsened.

His first confirmed fatal fight happened in Fort Griffin, Texas when he killed gambler Ed Bailey with a knife during a brawl. Doc was determined to die by the sword verses dying and suffering in bed. It was during this span of years that he met Wyatt Earp in 1877, a man whose life he would later save and he would form an unlikely alliance with.

Doc Saves Wyatt’s Life in Dodge City

Doc moved to Dodge City with Mary “Big Nose Kate” Horony to gamble and start over and was reunited with Wyatt Earp, who was a deputy sheriff at this time.

Several trouble making cowboys got the drop on Wyatt at “The Long Branch Saloon” and Doc Holliday went to Wyatt’s aid. Wyatt never forgot that night and was eternally grateful to Holliday.

In 1879 he killed former army scout Mike Gordon when Gordon fired his pistol at Doc. He also gunned down a young gunslinger in Colorado in 1879 named “Kid Colton” who picked a fight with Holliday.

Tombstone Arizona

In 1880, Doc and “Big Nose Kate” moved to Tombstone when they heard Wyatt Earp had moved there. Early on a rift developed between the Earp’s and a local cowboy faction of thugs, including the Clanton’s, the McLaury’s, and many other hooligans such as “Curly Bill” Brocius, and Johnny Ringo.

During that entire year friction continued and disputes developed between Virgil Earp and the McLaury’s over stolen mules, and between Wyatt and the Clanton’s over his stolen horse.

The cowboys tried to frame Doc for a hold-up and murder by convincing his hot-blooded girlfriend, during a drunken quarrel with Holliday to implicate him in the crime. She later recanted her testimony but the cowboys had made a new and powerful enemy.

The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

In October of 1881 the feud between the Earp’s and the cowboy gang had festered beyond repair and a showdown was imminent. On the 26th threats were made by several of the cowboys that they intended to kill Virgil and Wyatt.

Virgil being the town Marshall deputized Morgan, Wyatt, and Doc Holliday to help him disarm Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, Billy Clanton, and Ike Clanton (who was unarmed.) The cowboys refused to drop their weapons and insults were exchanged.

Within the span of 30 seconds both McLaury’s were dead, one having been shot by Doc Holliday with a shotgun, and Billy Clanton who was also shot by Doc Holliday in the stomach. Doc, Virgil, and Morgan were all wounded, but Wyatt was unscathed along with Ike who ran.

The Blood Feud

In March of 1882 assassins murdered Morgan Earp while he was playing a game of billiards. The bloodshed that ensued over the next couple of weeks was astounding.

Before Wyatt and Doc Holliday’s vengeance was sated, the assassins responsible, Curly Bill, Frank Stillwell, Indian Charlie, and Johnny Ringo would all be dead.

Local Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan, a friend to the local criminal element swore out warrants for Wyatt and Holliday. The Earp’s were forced to flee Tombstone and relocated to California and Doc Holliday went to Denver, Colorado.

In May of 1882 Holliday was arrested in Denver for the murder of Frank Stilwell but was released after two weeks when Colorado refused to let authorities from Arizona extradite him.

John Henry “Doc” Holliday died in Colorado on November, 8th 1887 at the age of 36 from the deteriorated effects of tuberculosis. He didn’t go out in a blaze of glory like he wanted, he died a wasted man in a bed with his boots off and his guns hanging on the bedpost.

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