August 14th, 1851 – “I’m Your Huckleberry”

Today-In-History

John Henry “Doc” Holliday . . . gambler, gunfighter, dentist, and a good friend of Wyatt Earp was born on August 14th, 1851

Doc Holliday

John Henry “Doc” Holliday (August 14, 1851 – November 8, 1887)

At age 20, Holliday earned a degree in dentistry from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery. He set up practice in Atlanta, Georgia but he was soon diagnosed with tuberculosis, the same disease that had claimed his mother when he was 15.

Young Doc HollidayHoping the climate in American Southwest would ease his symptoms, he moved to that region and became a gambler, a reputable profession in that day. Over the next few years he had a number of armed confrontations that earned him a reputation as a deadly gunman. While in Texas, he saved Wyatt Earp’s life and they became friends. In 1880, he joined the Earps in Prescott, Arizona, and then in Tombstone. On October 26th, 1881, after many months of threats and attacks on his character, Holliday was deputized by Virgil Earp. The lawmen attempted to disarm five Cowboys which turned into the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Doc Holliday 2After the Tombstone shootout, Virgil Earp was maimed by hidden assailants and Morgan Earp was murdered. Unable to get justice through the courts, Wyatt Earp took matters into his own hands. Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp deputized Holliday and others and as a federal posse, they pursued the outlaw Cowboys they believed were responsible. They found Frank Stilwell lying in wait as Virgil boarded a train for California and killed him. The local Sheriff issued a warrant for the arrest of five members of the posse, including Holliday.

The posse killed three others during late March and early April, 1882, before they rode to New Mexico and later Colorado. Wyatt Earp learned of an extradition request for Holliday and arranged for Colorado Governor Frederick Walker Pitkin to deny Holliday’s extradition. Holliday spent the remaining few years of life in Colorado and died in his bed at the Glenwood Springs Hotel of tuberculosis at age 36.

Holliday’s colorful life and character have been depicted in many books and portrayed by well-known actors in numerous movies and television series, the most noted perhaps being Val Kilmer in Tombstone. Since his death, researchers have concluded that Holliday killed from three to seven men and took part in nine shootouts.


 

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