History

Did You Know ‘Doc’ Holliday Was a Dentist in Dallas?

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Thanks to the magic of modern cinema, if you haven’t read about John “Doc” Holliday, you were familiarized with part of his story in the movie “Tombstone.” The movie starred Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc. In the film, Holliday was then known as a sufferer of tuberculosis, with a drinking habit that might only have been surpassed by his penchant for gambling. He becomes part of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral – 30 seconds in time that would live on in infamy. But did you know that before that, Doc Holliday was a dentist in Dallas?

At the age of 21, Holliday was a dentist, having earned his diploma in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Following that, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to work as an assistant for one of his classmates. After less than four months, he chose to then move to Atlanta, Georgia, to join a dentistry practice, and he moved in with family in order to save for the opportunity to start his own. At that time, history indicates that a man by the name of Arthur C. Ford took out an ad in the Atlanta papers identifying that Holliday would be his substitute in his offices while he was attending dental meetings. It was around this same time that Holliday was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In terms of time remaining, he was given only months left to live but was advised that a warmer and drier climate might slow his deterioration. When Dr. Ford returned to his offices in September of 1872, Holiday moved to Dallas, Texas to set up a practice with Dr. John A. Seegar.

Video: YouTube/Today I Found Out

‘Doc’ Holliday’s dentistry practice in Dallas was short-lived. Due to his tuberculosis, he took random coughing spells, which were ill-timed. He couldn’t control them, so it was inopportune, to say the least. This would keep patients away from the practice. In order to make a living, he had to find another way to earn money. This was when he turned to gambling and card games, a line of “work” he found he had a knack for. More to the tone and lines in the movie “Tombstone,” Holliday became a dealer for faro games in saloons throughout Dallas. It was because of his abilities in this game that he earned a reputation, as well as a lot of enemies.

He was arrested in Texas for his gambling issues, and began moving further westward, dealing in a number of faro games along the way. In the process, and over time, this inevitably placed him in Arizona, where he went down in even more infamy (if that’s possible) as a part of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. However, it was during his time in Texas that Holliday first became acquainted with Wyatt Earp. The history behind their meeting, and the story that goes along with their friendship is even more interesting than his dentistry in Dallas and his early life in faro dealing, the details of which you can read about here.