The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Doc Holliday

John Henry "Doc" Holliday (August 14, 1851November 8, 1887) was an American gambler and gunfighter who is usually remembered for his associations with Wyatt Earp and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

He was born in Griffin, Georgia to Henry Burroughs and Alice Jane Holliday. His mother died on Sept. 16, 1866, from tuberculosis. Three months later, his father remarried Rachel Martin. Shortly after the marriage, the family moved to Valdosta, Georgia.

In 1870, John Henry began dental school. On March 1, 1872, he received a degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery in Philadelphia. Later that year he opened a dental office with Arthur C. Ford in Atlanta.

Not long after beginning his dental practice, he contracted tuberculosis. He was given only a few months to live although it was thought moving to the drier western part of the United States could help to reduce the deterioration of his health.

His first stop west was Dallas, Texas. He soon began gambling, and realized this was a more beneficial source of income. After getting into a disagreement and killing a man, Holliday quickly fled to Jacksboro, Texas.

In the years that followed, Holliday had many more such disagreements, fueled by a hot temper and an attitude that death by gun or knife was better than that by tuberculosis.

Doc Holliday retired to the hot springs of Glenwood Springs, Colorado where the sulfur present in the spring stripped his lungs of healthy tissue. In the end, it was tuberculosis that got "Doc" Holliday. Fifteen years after the doctors gave him only months to live, he died peacefully in bed in Glenwood Springs, Colorado after converting to Catholicism. Dying in bed, his reputed last words were, "This is funny" while looking at his bootless feet. No one ever thought that he would die with his boots off.

In an interview in 1896, Wyatt Earp had this to say about Doc Holliday: "Doc was a dentist 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."

Holliday became a Western folk hero for his part in the Gunfight at OK Corral, immortalized in songs, stories and films. Val Kilmer played him in the 1993 movie Tombstone.

Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46