On July 19, 1879, Doc Holliday commits his first murder, killing a man for shooting up his New Mexico saloon. Despite his formidable reputation as a deadly gunslinger, Holliday only engaged in eight shootouts during his lifetime, and it has only been verified to have killed two men.
Still, the ex-dentist from Atlanta had a remarkably fearless attitude toward death and danger, perhaps because he was slowly dying from tuberculosis. In 1879, Holliday settled in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where he opened a saloon with a partner. Holliday spent his evenings gambling in the saloon and he seemed determined to add to his health issues by drinking heavily. He also enjoyed the company of dance hall girls and prostitutes that entertained the customers. On this day in 1879, a former army scout named Mike Gordon tried to persuade one of Holliday's saloon girls to quit her job and run away with him. When she refused, Gordon became infuriated. He went out to the street and began to fire bullets randomly into the saloon. He didn't have a chance to do much damage, after the second shot; Holliday calmly stepped out of the saloon and shot Gordon with a single bullet. He died the next day. The following year, Holliday abandoned the saloon business and joined his old friend Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, Arizona. There he would kill his second victim, during the famous "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" in October 1881. During the subsequent six years, Holliday assisted at several other killings and wounded a number of men in gun battles. His hard drinking and tuberculosis eventually caught up with him, and he retired to a Colorado health resort where he died in 1887.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: