Biography Of Doc Holiday: Dentist And Gunfighter

Biography of the short life of John Henry Doc Holiday. How tuberculosis led him from dentist to gunfighter, and back to dentistry.

When John Henry Holiday was barely 15 years old, one month and two days after his birthday, to be exact, his mother Alice Jane died. Since the two were very close, this tragedy surely shaped the boys life more than anyone could possibly know. This was followed by a remarriage for his father three short months exactly, after his mothers passing, on December 16, 1866. A move to Valdosta, Georgia then followed the marriage. Stability definitely was not a strong point in young Holiday's teenage years.

Needing to proceed with a life of his own, John chose the profession of dentistry. On March 1, 1872, he graduated from Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Shortly after starting into his practice, he discovered that he was ill.

The diagnosis was tuberculosis. Given a short time to live, one doctor told him that a move to a dryer climate wold surely prolong his life for at least a few months. Grasping at what time he could, he made the move to Dallas, Texas. Here he would practice dentistry, but only for a very short time. The hacking cough that came with the tuberculosis would erupt in the middle of his treating a patient, and his practice, a new one at that, soon had hardly any patients. Only a dentist for a few short years, and he was already leaving his second posting.



During this low point, he spent much of his time gambling. Here lay something he was good at. Being able to handle a six-gun and knife surely did not hurt. In that day and age, a good gambler who could not protect himself would soon be a dead gambler. Death was what he was trying to avoid, so he made sure that he would not die at the hand of some young gun that was overly protective of his newly lost money. After a shootout with a prominent citizen, and Holiday the winner, he fled from Dallas. He soon found a Job dealing Faro, not only a gambler, but well able to handle the other side of the card table, in Jacksboro. Another death at his hands was committed here. After a few more killings, he made the mistake of killing a soldier from Fort Richardson. Now he had the law after him.

With a reward now on his head, it was time to head out. It seemed everyone was out for him. Not only the Army and the marshals, but every small time lawman and local citizen he crossed paths with. He had attained fame as a wanted man. Crossing Apache country, he headed into Colorado. Between Pueblo, Leadville, and Central City, on his way to Denver, his fast gun killed three more men. Upon reaching Denver, he assumed the name of a Tom Mackey. After a card game gone badly, he nearly decapitated a man with his knife. The man did live, though the wounds were horrible. Again, Holiday fled. Here, he would drift from Wyoming, to New Mexico, and back to Texas.

A major turning point in his life was about to occur. In Ft. Griffin, Texas, he met Wyatt Earp and a woman known as Big Nose Kate. While Kate did have a prominent nose, her other features would be described as quite lovely. A prostitute by trade, she was of the character that when asked, said that, yes, she did like her business, and would not be in it otherwise. She and Holiday became fast friends. When Holiday would arrive in Dodge City, Kansas a short time after this, he would arrive in Kate's company, as Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Holiday. Here he would again hang out his shingle and practice his true profession, dentistry. He also purchased a saloon. In the year of 1879, he would travel to New Mexico, again hanging out his shingle. He seemed determined to practice his trade. At his point, many would call him a killer, a man who enjoyed taking a life. Others would refer to him only as someone who did not back down. He chose life, reveled in it, and would defend his in any way he deemed necessary, even if that meant taking others lives to extend his.

From Dodge, he headed to Tombstone in search of his friend Wyatt Earp. This would eventually lead to Holiday being accused of a stage robbery in which two men died. While innocent, Kate, being fully inebriated and coerced, would sign an affidavit that Holiday was guilty. Wyatt Earp, meanwhile, would gather witnesses to Holiday's true whereabouts, resulting in all the charges being dropped.

Holiday would not forgive Kate, and threw her out. While cleared of charges, local cowboys threatened Holiday and Wyatt Earp. On October 26, 1881, the "╦ťShootout at the OK Corral' erupted. Three men lay dead. Some say Holiday had at least one bullet in each.

On March 18, 1882, Morgan Earp would be assassinated. Wyatt and Doc would band together and hunt down his killers. Frank Stillwell would be shot in the Tucson railroad station. Over the next few years, Holiday would be arrested on several different charges, released, or acquitted on each charge for various reasons. In May of 1887, at the age of thirty-five, he moved to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. He again hung his shingle and opened his dentistry office. On November 8, 1887, John Henry Holiday, thirty-six years old, passed away of consumption and now lies buried in Linwood Cemetery.

© High Speed Ventures 2011