Illustration by Bob Boze Bell
Illustration by Bob Boze Bell

Gary L. Roberts gave Western historians a monumental present with his excellent biography, Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend, published in 2006. His fascination with the gunfighting dentist continues to this day, and he offers his viewpoint on Doc Holliday’s friendship with Wyatt Earp as well as how Bat Masterson felt about Doc in the end.

Wyatt & Doc: The biggest misconception about Doc is that he was totally wrapped up in Wyatt. He was loyal to his friend. He admired him. But he was no lap-dog sidekick. Their friendship was sealed in the summer of 1878 when Doc backed Wyatt’s play in a confrontation with Texas cowboys. Wyatt said that Doc saved his life that evening. After leaving Arizona Territory in 1882, Wyatt and Doc went their separate ways, still friends.

Bat & Doc: Doc’s relationship with Bat was more complicated than his friendship with Wyatt. Bat said some nasty things about Doc in his 1907 Human Life article, things that helped to shape the popular view of Doc ever after, but the historical record suggests that he had a different—and friendlier—view of Doc. Bat knew more details about Doc’s earlier life than Wyatt did. When Doc was arrested in Denver, Colorado, in 1882, Bat acted as his spokesman. That could be chalked up to Bat’s friendship with Wyatt, but Doc also assisted Bat several times over the years. In interviews, Bat spoke well of him. Kate (Doc’s common-law wife known as Big Nose Kate Elder) said that Bat gave Doc a revolver when they left Dodge City, Kansas. A case could be made that, despite what he later wrote, Bat saw Doc as a dependable and amiable associate.

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