Doc Holliday (John Henry Holliday)

Doc Holliday

Doc Holliday

A gunfighter and professional gambler, he is remembered for his friendship with Wyatt Earp and his involvement in the notorious Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona that resulted in the killing of three members of the Cochise County Cowboys, a loosely associated group of outlaw cowboys in Pima and Cochise County in the Arizona Territory. Born in Griffin, Georgia his father served in the Mexican-American War and the Civil War, and taught him how to shoot. In 1864 his family moved to Valdosta, Georgia, where his mother died of tuberculosis two years later. He attended the Valdosta Institute where he received a strong classical secondary education in rhetoric, grammar, mathematics, history, and languages-principally Latin but also French and Ancient Greek. In 1870 he attended the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery dental school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and received his degree five months before his 21st birthday. He then worked as an assistant with a classmate, A. Jameson Fuches, Jr., in St. Louis, Missouri and by the end of July he had moved to Atlanta, where he lived with his uncle and his family while beginning his career as a dentist. Not long after beginning his dental practice, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was given only a few months to live, but he considered that moving to the drier and warmer climate in the southwestern US might slow the deterioration of his health. In September 1873 he moved to Dallas, Texas, where he opened a dental office with fellow dentist and Georgian John A. Seegar. He soon began gambling and realized this was a more profitable source of income, since patients feared going to his office because of his ongoing cough. After being indicted for illegal gambling and arrested for trading gunfire with a saloonkeeper, he moved his dental office to Denison, Texas and after being found guilty of, and fined for, “gaming” in Dallas, he decided to leave the state. In the summer of 1875 he settled in Denver, Colorado under the alias “Tom Mackey”, working as a Faro dealer for John A. Babb’s Theatre Comique. There, he got involved in an argument with Bud Ryan, a well-known gambling tough. Both men fought a deadly melee, and he ended up mutilating Ryan with a knife. In February 1876 he relocated to Cheyenne, in present-day Wyoming, working as a dealer for Babb’s partner, Thomas Miller, who owned a saloon called the Bella Union. In the fall of 1876, Miller moved the Bella Union to Deadwood (site of the gold rush in the Dakota Territory), and he moved with him. In 1877 he returned to Cheyenne and Denver, eventually making his way to Kansas and later Texas, setting up as a gambler in the town of Breckenridge. In July 1877 he was shot and seriously wounded by a disgruntled gambler. After he recovered, he moved to Fort Griffin, Texas, where he met “Big Nose Kate” (Mary Katharine Horony) and began his longtime involvement with her, and was also introduced to Wyatt Earp through mutual friend John Shanssey. After a short stay in Las Vegas, New Mexico and Dodge City, Kansas (where he last practiced dentistry and earned the nickname “Doc”), where he was involved in several shootings, he moved to Tombstone, Arizona in September 1880 where Wyatt Earp and his brothers Morgan and Virgin had settled. The following year he participated with the Earp brothers in the confrontation of the Cowboy outlaws at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone that resulted in the killing of Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton. After Virgin Earp was seriously wounded in an ambush in December 1881 and Morgan Earp was killed in March 1882, all in retaliation for the O.K. Corral killings, he joined Wyatt Earp’s posse on their “vendetta ride” to avenge the shootings of Virgil and Morgan. After several revenge killings of Cowboy outlaws, he and Wyatt parted ways and he arrived in Colorado in April 1882. The following month he was arrested in Denver, Colorado on an outstanding Arizona Territory warrant for the murder of Frank Stillwell, who was killed shortly after he and Wyatt left Tombstone. Wyatt asked his friend and fellow lawman Bat Masterson, who was Chief of Police of Trinidad, Colorado, to help get him released which was finally accomplished two weeks later. He spent the rest of his life in Colorado. Following a stay in Leadville, he suffered from the high altitude and was increasingly depended on alcohol and laudanum to ease the symptoms of tuberculosis, and his health and his skills as a gambler and gunfighter began to deteriorate. In 1887 he managed to make his way to the Hotel Glenwood, near the hot springs of Glenwood Springs, Colorado and died there of tuberculosis at the age of 36. He has been portrayed in films and television numerous times, including Victor Mature in “My Darling Clementine” (1946), Kirk Douglas in “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” (1957), Douglas Fowley in “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” CBS television series (1955 to 1961), Jason Robards in “Hour of the Gun’ (1967), Stacy Keach in “Doc” (1971), Jeffrey DeMunn in the 1983 made-for-television movie “I Married Wyatt Earp,” Val Kilmer in “Tombstone” (1993), and Dennis Quaid in “Wyatt Earp” (1994).

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  • August, 14, 1851
  • Griffin, Georgia


  • November, 08, 1887
  • Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Cause of Death

  • tuberculosis


  • Pioneer Cemetery
  • Glenwood Springs, Colorado

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