Valdosta's John Henry (Doc) Holliday
by
Albert S. Pendleton, Jr. & Susan McKey Thomas


At eight o'clock on Friday evening March 1, 1872, the sixteenth annual commencement of the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery, Philadelphia, was held at Musical Fund Hall.

Among the twenty-six gentlemen upon whom the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery was conferred was one John Henry Holliday of Valdosta, Georgia.

Philadelphia, the "City of Brotherly Love", is far removed from Tombstone, Arizona - the "Town Too Tough to Die". Nevertheless, this John Henry Holliday who sat upon the platform of this graduating exercise was the same Doc Holliday who, on October 26, 1881, participated with the Earp brothers against the Clantons and McLaurys in the famous "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral".

John Henry Holliday, son of Henry Burroughs Holliday and Alice Jane McKey, was born August 14, 1851, in Griffin, Georgia. He spent approximately eight of his youthful years (1864-1872) in Lowndes County. The Holliday family refugeed from Griffin to this county in 1864, shortly after Major Holliday's medical discharge from the Confederacy, settling in a small community northeast of Valdosta presently known as Bemiss. Three months after the death of John's mother in 1866, his father remarried. The Holliday's later established residence in Valdosta at 405 East Savannah Avenue.

Major Holliday was active in civic and political affairs and served as mayor of Valdosta. He introduced the pecan industry to this section of Georgia, and Holliday Street is named for him.

John attended the Valdosta Institute, where Samuel McWhir Varnedoe presided as headmaster. Upon completion of his education at the Institute, he enrolled at the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery, attending sessions there in 1870-71 and in 1871-72. Holliday's preceptor was Dr. Lucian Frederick Frink, a Valdosta dentist and a native of North Carolina who had moved to Valdosta from Madison, Florida, in 1868. Shortly after graduation from dental college, Dr. Holliday moved to Atlanta, where he associated briefly with Dr. Arthur C. Ford. He was also appointed preceptor for his Atlanta cousin, Dr. Robert A. Holliday, who was instrumental in founding the first dental college in Georgia.

When Holliday learned that he had tuberculosis - the disease destined to claim his life - he moved West in search of drier climate. In October, 1873, he became associated with Dr. John A. Seegar of Dallas, Texas, later engaging in private practice in that same city. Upon leaving Dallas, Doc's peregrinations were difficult to follow except for occasional newspaper accounts; however, he is known to have practiced in the famous Dodge House, Dodge City, Kansas. Apparently, he continued to practice dentistry sporadically, becoming more and more involved with lawmen and the gambling element - the pinnacle of which was the famous Tombstone gunfight.

On January 28, 1888, The Valdosta Times published an article taken from The Denver Republican denoting the death of Dr. John Henry Holliday. He died November 8, 1887, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, where he is buried in Linwood Cemetery. Major Holliday survived his son by six years, and both he and Alice Jane McKey Holliday are buried in Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta.