Happy New Year, y'all. I'm so pleased to be a new contributor to this blog. I love history, and one of my favorite parts about the writing process is doing the research required to ensure accuracy in my stories. I also try to find something that may not be widely known to keep the story interesting.
My family and I share our hometown of Griffin, Georgia, with a notorious gambler and gunfighter who’s also a dentist. I work only a block away from the location of his dental practice.
Doc Holliday is well known for his participation along with Wyatt Earp in the O.K. Corral gunfight in 1881. The battle itself lasted less than a minute. After almost 140 years, what do we still find so intriguing about the man? Multiple movies retell the story of lawman, Wyatt Earp. But strangely, the character we’re most drawn to is a sickly dentist turned gambler and gunman known as Doc.
|Pictured left Doc Holliday with Wyatt Earp and his brothers.|
Perhaps the complexity of his character is the reason for his lingering appeal. His vibrant personality is rooted in contrast. Doc is critically ill but bold and gallant. He’s a deadly gunslinger and gambler, yet smart, educated, flashy, witty, compassionate, and loyal. Stir in a bit of vulnerability, a touch of vanity, and don’t forget a healthy dose of gallant southern charm to describe this critically ill man.
|Doc Holliday as a child|
Born with a cleft palate on August 14, 1851, John Henry Holliday was fed by his mother with an eyedropper and a spoon.
The baby’s uncle, Dr. John Stiles Holliday, performed surgery, assisted by Dr. Crawford Long, the namesake of the Emory Hospital in Atlanta. The operation may have been the first time in history that ether was used on an infant. He was schooled at home by his mother, who spent years training him to conquer his speech impediment. She also instilled in him Southern etiquettes, which would forever be part of his demeanor.
Two actors who played Doc Holliday, Stacy Keach and Jason Robards, were also born with the same condition.
Jason Robards played Doc in Hour of the Gun in 1967.
|Doc Holliday age 10|
Holliday attended Valdosta Institute, where he received a classical education, and in 1870, nineteen-year-old Holliday left home to attend the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery. He graduated five months before his twenty-first birthday. He returned to Griffin, Georgia, in 1872 to practice dentistry.
John Henry was soon diagnosed with consumption and, in 1873, ended his career as a dentist. Some say he didn’t want his family to see him deteriorate and die from the disease. Others suggest he went west hoping that the climate would be beneficial to his lungs. Regardless, Doc took the train to the literal end of the railroad line—Dallas, Texas.
Holliday understood the gravity of his disease and most likely considered himself a walking dead man. Though a realist, he remained hopeful for a cure. Doc found comfort in whiskey and gambling.
Texas was full of guns, knives, and violent men, some of whom were suffering from post-traumatic stress from the effects of war. Doc reinvented himself—from a southern gentleman dentist to a dangerous gunman who’d killed more than a dozen men in various altercations.
Holliday traveled from town to town, following the money and gaining a reputation as both a gambler and a gunman. In 1877, Doc was involved in an argument, but he used his walking stick instead of going for his gun. His serious wounds, compounded by worsening tuberculosis, spurred a change of scenery. His next stop was Fort Griffin, where he met Wyatt Earp, who ultimately saved his life.
Earp and Holliday became fast friends. Eventually, Doc would join Earp in the wild boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona. Due to recent silver strikes, the town was flooded with merchants and cash but short on law and order. By the end of 1880, Tombstone was embedded with organized rustlers and thieves called the Cowboys.
Val Kilmer as Doc alongside Sam Elliott, Kurt Russell & Bill Paxton as Virgil, Wyatt & Morgan Earp in Tombstone, 1 1993 American Western film directed by George P. Cosmato.
On October 26, 1881. Tombstone City Marshal Virgil Earp deputized Holliday. Virgil asked Doc to carry his shotgun under his coat, and the four strode down the middle of the street to meet and disarm five members of the Cowboys near the O.K. Corral, which resulted in a thirty-second shootout.
Combining, History, Humor, and Romance with an emphasis on Faith, Friends, and Good Clean Fun, my stories are written to remind us how God can use adversity to strengthen us and draw us closer to Him and give us the desires of our heart in ways we may never expect.
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