Doc Holliday

American West, Term Paper

“Doc” Holliday: A man in search of normality.
John Henry Holliday, perhaps one of the most legendary gunfighters of the west, lived in reality a life built on necessity and simply followed it and made due with the blows that were dealt to him. Born August 14, 1851 to Alice and Henry Holliday, John Henry Holliday entered the world already at a disadvantage with a serious birth defect. The defect known as a cleft palate and a partially cleft lip, basically made suckling his mother’s breast impossible. Dr. John S. Holliday, John’s uncle and an accomplished surgeon, delivered John, cleared his air passages, and taught his mother the proper way to feed the him due to the defect. With out the aid and instructions of Dr. Holliday, John could have easily choked to death as was common with children that had this genetic defect. Ironically one of the tools to feed the young child effectively was a shot glass, which in many ways never left his side. At only eight weeks old John was under the careful care of his uncle once again. Dr John Holliday, along with family friend Dr. Crawford Long, operated on John’s mouth and lip with success. This was only the beginning of a turbulent childhood that was anything but typical.
Instead of playing around without a care in the world like most toddlers, John spent almost all of his time in speech therapy in an effort to correct what otherwise would have been a terrible impediment. His mother, Alice Holliday, was the chief therapist and attacked the problem with gusto. Her determination at alleviating the impediment rubbed off on the young child, and John therefore worked hard at improving his speech. By the age of four the impediment was barely noticeable. Yet John’s childhood was not only speech therapy, playing with his cousin Robert was his favorite activity and would persist to be for most of his young life.
John Holliday’s adolescence was influenced by two main factors, his mother and southern society. Like most children John had a special bond with his mother, but coupled with his need of constant attention due to his speech therapy and the routine absence of his father due to business and political affairs, that bond became much stronger than typical. Alice home schooled John until his therapy ended, doing such a good job that when he started school he was way ahead of his classmates. Conversely after years of practical solitude, except for the occasional recess with Robert, John was behind socially and was therefore quite shy and reserved with the other students at the academy. The shy and quiet boy was about to get a crash course on social behavior, when the passing of John’s grandfather brought four of his young aunts and uncle into his household. Although spoiled by them, the quiet times of being at home with just him and his mother were over.
The Holliday’s were true Southerners in both philosophical attitudes and genetic lineage. From birth John was surrounded by the virtues and attitude that exemplified a true southern gentleman, in the form of his father Henry Holliday. In true form to this code of southern males of the time, Henry Holliday accepted a presidential appointment into the Confederate Army from Jefferson Davis to serve in the Georgia Volunteer Infantry. Henry prior to the Civil War had taught his son to handle revolvers, rifles, and shotguns. Although only ten years old John became the “man of the house” and with weapons ready at all times was well prepared to defend it. This was not necessary for long however, as Henry Holliday resigned his commission after a little more than a year due to chronic diarrhea. In that year Henry Holliday spent with the Confederate army, he realized that in fact the Yankees were coming, and therefore sold what he had in Griffin, Georgia and moved south to just outside Valdosta, a small town named Bemiss. The move most likely saved both his assets and his life, since General Sherman and the bluecoats went right through Griffin in their “march to the sea.” All together, some fourteen members of John Holliday’s family fought in the Civil War, surprisingly all returned home safely. Although Reconstruction