Was Doc Holliday Really A Dentist?

Wyatt Earp's trusted friend John Henry Holliday, better known as Doc, was a man full of surprises. Earp himself called Holliday both a philosopher and a vagabond. He was a gambler and an infamous Wild West gunfighter, even while he suffered from a terminal illness. And he did not acquire his moniker Doc for any reason other than he was actually a member of the medical profession.

Doc Holliday really was a dentist. Holliday, originally from Georgia, graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery in 1872, reported The Baltimore Sun. He even finished the required two-year apprenticeship, studying under Dr. L.F. Frank. His life in dental school was far different from what dentistry students experience now, wrote Chairside Magazine. He had to write a thesis before graduating, something no longer required of dental students. Holliday's was titled "Diseases of the Teeth." Holliday then returned to Georgia to open his practice in Atlanta with another dentist, Dr. Arthur C. Ford.

According to History, Holliday was a competent dentist. But while work in Atlanta thrived, Holliday began coughing up a storm. And that is the last thing you want your dentist to do while staring inside your mouth. Doctors diagnosed Holliday with tuberculosis and suggested he move to a warmer climate.

Imagine if your dentist could also win a shootout

Holliday moved his dental practice to Dallas, Texas, where he enjoyed a successful practice. Legends of America wrote he operated a dental clinic with Dr. John A. Seeger, but his move to the West did not stop his coughing spells. Soon, business dried up, and Holliday began spending more time at something he liked far more than teeth.

Being an intelligent man — he could also speak Latin and played piano — gambling came easily to Holliday. At that time, gambling was an acceptable profession, particularly in states like California, Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado, explained HistoryNet. Holliday became a popular and successful gambler. He played poker and dealt Faro, a French card game. Gambling, however, was a dangerous profession. Already very sick, aware that he had a short time left on Earth, Holliday knew he had to learn how to protect himself. With his diagnosis effectively a death sentence, he's reported to have had pretty much had no fear of dying in a fight. 

Holliday eventually made a name for himself by participating in the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which was not actually at the O.K. Corral. He died of tuberculosis, age 36, in Colorado. At least Doc lived a far more exciting life than most dentists do.