Legends Never Die
Doc’s involvement in the shootout at the O.K. Corral transformed his character considerably. Gone were the days when he was trying to fabricate a tough persona in order to protect himself in the dangerous gambling dens; in his later years, his reputation preceded him. For example, Doc spent the winter of 1885-86 in Denver, Colorado. The climate there was slightly less harsh on his lungs, and he enjoyed the various gaming halls in town. When spring arrived, he traveled to nearby Silverton, granting an interview reflecting on his enhanced reputation as an outlaw. Concluding that he felt justified in the killings that he was responsible for, Doc advised the reporter that many of the shootings attributed to his name were false. Doc returned to Denver that summer, but the reputation he discussed with the papers came back to haunt him.
The Denver police, dismayed at having a well-known gunfighter within their city limits, made it clear to Doc that he was not welcome there, and that they would make his life complicated if he stayed. After the police threw a phony charge his way, Doc was forced to leave the city and start over somewhere new once again. Unfortunately, the only force stronger than the law or his Tombstone enemies that was capable of keeping Doc grounded was his health. When running was no longer an option, Doc found a safe haven in Glenwood Springs – his final destination.
Doc’s Final Days
In late 1886 or early 1887, Doc contacted Kate, telling her of his plans to travel to Glenwood Springs to visit the sulfur baths - a place thought to cure tuberculosis and other ailments. He arrived there in May of 1887, and attempted to support himself by practicing dentistry once more. Perhaps Doc was tired of the late nights that gambling required, and he desired a change of pace, back to when things were simpler and he was just John Henry Holliday, D.D.S. When Kate arrived and his violent coughing spells had already ruined his dental practice, he followed her to her brother's cabin in nearby Crystal Valley. Kate, her brother, and her sister-in-law all took care of Doc, whose health was reaching an urgent state.
When Doc's condition continued to worsen, they all agreed that he should return to the mineral baths in Glenwood Springs. Doc and Kate checked into the Hotel Glenwood, located on the northeast corner of Grand Avenue and Eighth Street. For a short time, Doc was able to deal faro, but this ceased when he could no longer keep up. Unbeknownst at the time, the sulfur vapors of the springs were likely exasperating Doc's already feeble lungs.
Bird's eye view of Glenwood Springs, Colorado ca. 1881
Stories say that during the last 57 days of his life, Doc rose from his bed only twice. During the third week of October, 1887, Doc became delirious. By November 7, he was no longer able to speak. At about 10:00 on the morning of November 8, 1887, John Henry 'Doc' Holliday died at the Hotel Glenwood in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, of tuberculosis. Sources state that he was buried near Palmer Avenue and Twelfth Street in the Linwood Cemetery that afternoon at 4:00 p.m. at a service attended by many friends, although the exact location of his grave today is disputed. Among his few possessions were a small knife, a gold stickpin from which the diamond had been removed, and a few gaming devices. The lack of dental equipment or tools within his custody highlights how his first career was replaced, as necessary, by another – gambling.
One of the believed burial sites of John Henry 'Doc' Holliday in Glenwood Springs, Colorado by Don Graham licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Following Doc's death, the Ute Chief of Glenwood Springs gave a eulogy. Within his speech, he noted, "Of him it can be said that he represented law and order at all times and places...That 'Doc' Holliday had his faults none will attempt to deny; but who among us has not, and who shall be the judge of these things?" After running and suffering for many years, Doc was finally at rest.
To read the full obituary, please visit this site.
How Doc is Remembered
A sketch of Doc Holliday and his fellow lawmen from Old Mexico and her lost provinces; a journey in Mexico, southern California, and Arizona, by way of Cuba by William Henry Bishop.
Although Doc passed away over a century ago, his memory has lived on through almost every art form imaginable. Since 1937, nearly 70 actors have portrayed Doc Holliday, or a character based on him, in multiple movies and TV shows. Each era’s opinion of, and casting of, Doc’s character reflects prominent thinking and principles during that time. Review the provided lists of Doc Holliday depictions in popular culture. How many of these renderings have you seen firsthand?
Share your thoughts about who provided the best Doc Holliday impersonation by taking our poll!