Doc Holliday (The Deadly Dentist) John Henry 'Doc' Holliday, was born in Griffin, Georgia, on 14 August, 1851. His father was a Confederate Army veteran, his mother died from tuberculosis in 1866, when John was aged just 14. She died from the disease that was to blight his own life, and it was almost certainly inherited from his mother. Despite the premature death of his mother, John's early life was stable and happy. He is remembered as being an amiable, well-spoken and polite young man. Though on one occasion furious that some negro’s were bathing in a part of the river he liked to use himself he fired shots over their heads, the negro’s fired back and a gunfight ensued, but no one was hurt.
Aged 19 John was educated at the Valdosta Institute, Georgia, where he learned grammar, rhetoric, mathematics and history. He was also fluent in French, could speak Latin and Ancient Greek, and could play the piano passably well. By the time he completed his studies, John Holliday was every inch the polished southern gentleman. In 1870, he left Griffin, Georgia, to study dentistry in Philadelphia from where he graduated in March, 1872. But by this time he light coloured hair, pitifully thin and ashen faced, he was given just a few months to live. In response to this, John decided to move south-west where it was thought the drier climate might improve his health. In September, 1873, he settled in Dallas, Texas, where he opened a dental surgery. It wasn't a success as people stopped visiting once they found out about his condition. Already a heavy drinker and regular in the local saloons he soon found gambling to be a more lucrative source of income. However, after being arrested for murder following a gunfight and his subsequent acquittal, and several other incidents, he decided to quit the State of Texas altogether. Imbued with a fiery temper and an innate volatility of character that was only exacerbated by his condition topped up, as it was, with copious amounts of alcohol, Doc, as he was by now already known, seemed always to be involved in some dispute or fight or other. As his tuberculosis worsened so his drinking increased. Often intoxicated he let it be known that he preferred a violent death than having to succumb to illness. Travelling further West, Doc made a living as a gambler and faro dealer in towns such as Denver and Deadwood, and he soon gained a reputation as a violent man. It was also around this time that he met Mary Kate Horony ( Big Nose Kate ) a prostitute of Hungarian birth, who was to be his partner and accomplice for the rest of his life.
WyattÂ Earp In 1878, whilst residing in Dodge City he intervened in a fight on behalf of Wyatt Earp, whom he had met previously in Tucson. Wyatt later credited Doc with saving his life. In the preamble to a fight Doc would often call someone out with the phrase "I'II be your huckleberry". Soon after the incident in Dodge, Doc knifed a fellow gambler Ed Bailey to death over a disputed card game. Doc was known to be as lethal with a knife as he was with a gun and he was rumoured to have already killed a number of people in this way. In July, 1879, Doc was arrested for shooting dead a U.S Army scout, Mike Gibson, in a gunfight. He was acquitted after no witnesses could be found willing to testify against him. By now nearly always drunk to some degree or other, his reputation was for being quick on the draw. But he was also notoriously inaccurate. Any number of innocent bystanders were wounded in gunfights involving Doc Holliday. In September, 1880, he moved to Tombstone, Arizona, probably at the request of the Earpâ€™s, who were expecting trouble with the cowboy faction in town, particularly the Clanton's and McLaury's. Holliday, who was disputatious by nature, soon found himself embroiled in local politics. On the night before the infamous incident at the O.K Corral a drunken Holliday confronted Ike Clanton who was eating lunch in a saloon. He berated Ike in the most abusive terms trying to goad him into going for his gun. He threatened to kill Ike there and then, but Ike stayed calm and refused to rise to the bait. A disgruntled Holliday left the saloon but not until he had muttered dire consequences on the morrow. Previously, in August, 1881, Old Man Clanton (Ike's father) and four other cowboys were killed in an ambush. Doc was implicated in the murders, and given his antipathy towards the Clanton's his involvement cannot be ruled out. It was said that the walking stick he used thereafter was a result of the wounds he sustained in the gunfight. Gunfight at the O K Corral
Tombstone,Â Arizona,Â 1881 Believing that the Clanton's and McLaury's were in town to kill them, Marshal Virgil Earp determined to act first. Along with his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, and joined by Doc, he cornered the Cowboys in the O K Corral. It seems likely that Virgil only intended to disarm and detain the Cowboys who had infringed a town ordinance by carrying firearms within its precincts. But the tension that built up as the two groups eye-balled each other became unbearable. Doc, who was carrying a shotgun given to him by Morgan Earp, who saw he could conceal it under his long coat, helped provoke the confrontation by remonstrating with one of the McLaury's and violently pushing him in the chest. Soon after Wyatt Earp and Frank McLaury drew on one another firing almost simultaneously. They missed, but Doc didn't, and he shot Frank McLaury dead. In less than a minute it was all over. Tom and Frank McLaury and young Billy Clanton were dead. All the Earp's and Doc Holliday had been wounded. Hostilities didn't end there, however. In December, 1881, Virgil Earp was shot and maimed for life. In March, 1882, Morgan was shot in the back and killed. The remaining Earp's decided to flee Tombstone. But Wyatt would have his revenge. Wyatt Earp's Revenge Ride Determined to avenge himself on those who shot his brothers and restore the family honour, Wyatt quickly identified those he believed responsible. The first to die was Frank Stilwell, who was shot in cold blood by Wyatt and Doc, who accompanied him. Joined by old friends Sherman McMasters, Turkey Creek Jack Johnson, Texas Jack Vermillion, and Wyatt's younger brother Warren, Wyatt and Doc now embarked upon a three week orgy of violence. This became known to history as Wyatt Earp's Revenge Ride. By the time they had finished at least 8 Cowboys lay dead, though the final figure may have been much higher. In July, 1882, the legendary Johnny Ringo was shot dead in Tombstone. Rumours persist that Doc Holliday was responsible and that his murder was Wyatt's reward for Doc's loyalty. Johnny Ringo, had earlier had a violent altercation with Doc during which Doc had been heard to remark, "All I want from you is ten paces out in the street". Their thirst for revenge sated, Doc and Wyatt went their separate ways. Doc travelled to Colorado where his health went into steady and irreversible decline, and he was dependent upon large doses of laudanum and alcohol to see him through the day. Finally, he settled in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, hoping the waters there would help clear his lungs. But he was dying and despite his best endeavours to do otherwise he would die in his bed. Committed to a nursing home he spent the last months of his life bed-ridden and slipping in and out of consciousness. Receiving Absolution he died on 8 November, 1887, his last words were "I'II be damned. This is funny". He was just 36. His tombstone reads - Doc Holliday 1852 1887. He died in his bed. Wyatt Earp wrote of his friend: " Doc was a dentist not a lawman or an assassin, whom necessity had made a gambler, a gentleman whom disease had made a frontier vagabond; a philosopher whom life had made a caustic wit. A long, lean, ash-blond fellow nearly
dead with consumption, and at the same time the most skillful gambler and the nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a gun that I ever knew." Once asked if he ever had a conscience about his killing, Doc replied, " I coughed that up with my lungs years ago."