Doc Holliday – Birth, Education, Professional Gambler, Death

Doc Holliday - Story - biography


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The Old West hero John Henry “Doc” Holliday was born on 14th August 1851 in Griffin, Georgia. His father Henry Burroughs Holliday married Alice Jane Mckay on 8th January 1849 and they had two children Martha Eleanora Holliday and him. His sister died in infancy. His father was a druggist, planter, soldier, and pharmacist who served in many wars and after one of the wars returned home to Griffin with an orphan named Francisco Hidalgo whom he had adopted. Doc Holliday was very close to his mother and received a setback on 16th September 1866 when his mother died due to deathly disease tuberculosis (it was known as ‘consumption’ at that time) and later his adopted brother Francisco too died of the same disease. He was still in grief when another setback came to his life that his father married Rachel Martin just three months later on 18th December 1866 who was only a few years older than him.




The family moved from Griffin to Valdosta, Georgia from where Doc did his initial schooling and got admission to the Valdosta Institute where he learned Latin, Greek, French, and other basic subjects and came out to be an outstanding student and had a well academic record. For his further education, he chose to become a doctor and fled to Philadelphia in 1870 and received his degree for Doctor of Dental Surgery from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery on 1st March 1872. So he was a Dentist by profession and practiced as a doctor after turning 21.


As a Dentist

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After getting his degree and at the age of 21 when he was legally eligible to practice, he went to St. Louis, Missouri and worked there as an assistant to his classmate A. Jameson Fuches. After some time he came back to Atlanta and while living with his uncle he practiced as a doctor under Dr. Arthur C. Ford. Heading towards Dallas, Texas he initially practiced dentistry with Dr. John A. Seegar, but further in some time his business did not make him earn up to the mark and so he thought of another way of earning for his livelihood.


Deathly Disease


Another problem occurred in Doc’s life where he discovered that he had the same disease as his mother had that was Tuberculosis and was told that he had few years left. He was advised to move to a place with a drier and warmer climate because of the disease and so he left for Dallas, Texas and continued his dentistry while living there with Dr. John A. Seegar and afterward opened his new dental clinic.

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Professional Gambler


His practice as a dentist declined after some time as the patients did not visit him, also because of his disease, he had regular coughing spells which made him close his practice. Now to earn an income he had to do something and soon he thought that gambling would help him earn money for his living and he entered into gambling. He had developed a strong habit of playing cards and gun fighting. He was accused of illegal gambling on 12th May 1874. On 4th July 1877, a gambler Henry Kahn was badly beaten by Holliday as a cause of a disagreement between the two and both were arrested and fined in Dallas. Later after all the commotion, Kahn shot Holliday leaving him in pain on the ground. After recovering from his injury he came back to Texas and he met Mary Katherine “Big Nose Kate” Horony there while having a round of cards at John Shanssey’s salon. She was a prostitute and was known as “Big Nose Kate” as she was tough, stubborn and fearless as despite of being an educated girl, she chose to be a prostitute because she believed in her independence and that nobody could stop her from doing this. She was the only girl who is known to have a relationship with Holliday throughout his life. Moving ahead from Dallas, he went on searching places where he could continue his gambling and finally came to a halt in the Dodge City, Kansas in 1878.


Friendship with a lawman

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Dodge City was famous as a major place for all illegal activities like gun fighting, gambling, etc. In October 1877 Holliday came across a lawman in the Dodge City known as Wyatt Earp who was an assistant marshal during the fight with the cowboys where Earp thinks that Holliday has saved his life in the fight and they both became friends. Further in 1878, Holliday and Horony fled to Las Vegas, Mexico. Holliday opened his clinic and started dentistry again with indulging in gambling too simultaneously. That very year the Mexico government banned illegal activities and because of this Holliday was fined. From there he returned back to the Dodge City. Till the time, Earp has resigned from his post and he with his wife Mattie Blaylock and his family fled to Arizona Territory. Holliday and Horony followed them. The two couples met there and both left for Prescott, Arizona Territory and further, they came to a halt in Tombstone, Arizona Territory.


As a Gunfighter    


Although Holliday is considered to be involved in many of the gunfights and gambling scenes the most famous gunfight in his life was that at the O.K. Corral where he was in company with Wyatt Earp. On 26th October 1881, the two friends and Earp’s family found themselves in the fight against the cowboys Ike, Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom. The battle took only 30 seconds where more than 30 shots were fired and this battle is known to be the most famous in the entire West. Three men dead and almost all the others wounded was the cause of the big battle where Holliday was severely injured. The two friends Earp and Holliday were arrested, but soon released. Wyatt Earp’s brother Morgan Earp was killed in the battle and this incident made Earp and Holliday both go on the Earp Vendetta Ride (Ride for finding the cowboys) on 20th March to 15th April 1882.

After many other gunfights, all of them decided to leave New Mexico. Because of a very serious dispute between Holliday and Earp, they both did not stay together further and left each other’s company in Albuquerque. So, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral between the cowboys and the two friends is known to be the most happening and the most famous gunfight in that time.




After Earp and Holliday had to leave each other, Holliday fled to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, where he stayed at Hotel Glenwood near the hot springs thinking that it might help him recover from his illness, but it came out to be the opposite of his thought. The hot fumes of the water might have caused the adverse effect on Holliday’s lungs and as a result, Holliday died on 8th November 1887 when he was running 36 years of age. He was buried in the Linwood Cemetery.


Old West Hero


Holliday was a well-known person in the entire West where he was majorly known for his several encounters and his gambling activities. He was very famous for the encounter at the O.K. Corral, further from the sources it is known that he was arrested 17 times in his life, also his friendship with a lawman has been considered a famous part and their leaving each other. Many other small encounters have been a part of Holliday’s life and he was famous for his gambling too from where he earned his living. Holliday portrays brotherhood, loyal friendship towards Earp, he was famous throughout the West for his activities and created a dignified image of a gunfighter and as a gambler. His three most famous events can be the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and that at the Earp Vendetta Ride and lastly his friendship with the lawman Wyatt Earp.


Famous Personality


He was a famous personality, a Documentary “In Search of Doc Holliday” has been written on him in 2016. Many films, serials, songs, fiction stories have been dedicated to Doc Holliday and his role where actors have played their part as Holliday like Harvey Clark in Law for Tombstone in 1937, Walter Huston in The Outlaw in 1943, Kim Spalding in the syndicated television series Stories of the Century, 1954, Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell in 2011, At Grave’s End by Jeaniene Frost in 2008, etc. Songs like “Linwood” written and performed by Jon Chandler and many more. So, Doc Holliday is considered to be a famous personality in the West and had made his presence known to everyone there. Many films and songs have been dedicated to him after his death and this shows that he was one of the most popular beings at that time in the West.


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