The Catholic Defender: Doc Holliday of the OK Coral, Catholic Convert


Recently, I was honored to see actor Stephen Keith give a presentation on Doc Holliday and the story behind him.

Stephen Keith is really an authority on the subject as he has been portraying Doc Holliday for 35 years.

When you are looking at the lives of those who lived in the old West like Doc Holliday, we recall the famous gun battles like the OK Coral in Tombstone Arizona.

Tombstone is a classic example of how the West was lived. While I was visiting there, I had the opportunity to speak with Stephen Keith for a good while after his presentation.

It was very interesting to hear the Doc Holliday story and Stephen almost makes you believe that Doc Holliday is right there with you.

I was captivated with his depiction of Doc Holliday.

Stephen Keith sat down with me as I gave him a little background on what I do with Deepertruth and what we have been able to accomplish for the Lord.

This lead to my explaining how I spoke in a church built in Colorado in 1912 and still in use in Meeker Colorado.

It was in the Denver Colorado Diocese that Buffalo Bill had been received into the Catholic Faith just two days before his death.

The Indian Chief, Sitting Bull, was the chief witness to Buffalo Bill, who also converted to the Catholic Faith.

In other words, Sitting Bull helped led Buffalo Bill to the Catholic Faith. The one time former enemies had now become brothers in Jesus Christ.

During Stephen Keith’s performance, he never brought in a religious back ground on Doc Holliday, but because Stephen was interested in what I was telling him. He gave me the following information.

Then he proceeded to inform me that Doc Holliday’s Father was a member of the Church of Christ and his Mother was a Methodist who converted to Calvinism.

Doc Holliday was raised with a basic Christian background, but living the life of gambling and running across the Southwest from Texas to Colorado to Arizona, he lost his way.

Doc Holliday would die on the morning of November 8, 1887. Stephen Keith said in his presentation that it is said Doc Holliday looked down at his feet and said, “This is funny”, and then died.

It is as if Doc Holliday had reflected on his life and found it ironic how he would end up.

But Stephen revealed to me another detail not given in the presentation.

According to the Glenwood Springs (Colorado) UTE Chief of November 12, 1887, wrote in his obituary that Doc Holliday had been baptized in the Catholic Church by Father E.T. Downey of St. Stephen’s Catholic Church.

Doc Holliday’s Cousin, Sister Mary Melanie was a Catholic Nun, her correspondence with Doc Holliday was the basis for the obituary.

I love these death bed conversion of those like Buffalo Bill and Doc Holliday because it shares the great Mercy of Jesus. I love the story of John Wayne, perhaps that greatest actor of the American West. He too was received into the Catholic Faith on his death bed.

While I was at Tombstone, I also had the blessing of meeting another actor who has been in several westerns and movies.

David Hight plays Ike Clanton, the famed outlaw at the OK Coral in these Tombstone reenactments. I met David in the Big Nose Kate Saloon that is prominently displayed right there on Allen Street, Tombstone.

I went in there to have a “Doc Holliday” drink (much like Dr. Pepper) and had the chance to talk with David Hight.

That was also an honor as David Hight is also a Military Veteran who served in the Navy. It was really interesting to talk to him about the movies he had appeared in.

David shared with me that he had appeared in the movies, Gundown, Debacle, To Kill a Memory, Shoot to Power, Ambush at Dark Canyon, and was featured in the Phoenix Business Journal for his performance in Copperwind.

What meant the most to me was David’s open faith he has in Jesus in his life. He is not yet a Catholic, but trust me, I was able to place down some seeds in the 30 minutes we talked…. lol

I really enjoyed the meeting.

I also really enjoyed the outdoor theater of the reenactments of what it was like in Tombstone and the wild, wild, west.

I almost wished I’d had my own stetson I wear, but that fringed jacket I have would just been to hot.

People might not know this, but the oldest Church in Tombstone is the Catholic Church there.

Beginning in 1879, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Tombstone is still in use to this day.

Tombstone originally was named for the warning given when minors found a silver strike on Indian lands. The Apache were fierce fighters and when they were at war, they seldom lost.

Yet, Tombstone thrived as the settlers came and big money was to be made.

Current silver coming from Tombstone would be in excess of 1.5 billion dollars.

That is a lot of money that would lead many people to come and work the mines.

I went through the mines as a tourist, it was interesting to see how they had to work hard for that silver. Today, people from all over the world come here to keep alive the old stories of the old west.

The Indian wars, the gun fights, the settling of an untamed land. I most certainly encourage people who can, to go to Tombstone Arizona when you happen to be in the area. It really is like Silver Dollar City near Branson Missouri.

It is important to understand where we have been to have an idea what we look forward for tomorrow.

Tombstone will always be most remembered for the gunfight at the OK Coral. There have been many books written on this famous gunfight and several movies.

The Tombstone Nugget proclaimed: “The 26th of October, 1881, will always be marked as one of the crimson days in the annals of Tombstone, a day when blood flowed as water, and human life was held as a shuttle cock, a day to be remembered as witnessing the bloodiest and deadliest street fight that has ever occurred in this place, or probably in the Territory.”

The Tombstone Epitaph wrote: “The feeling among the best class of our citizens is that the Marshal was entirely justified in his efforts to disarm these men, and that being fired upon they had to defend themselves which they did most bravely.”

The gunfight itself only lasted about 30 seconds, but the aftermath lives on. A famous cemetery, boot hill, tells the story of those who lived and died there in tombstone.

Wyatt Earp and his brothers James, Virgil, Warren, and Morgan, along with Doc Holliday played a role in the gunfight.

The Outlaws Frank and Tom Mclaury, Bill and Ike Clanton, Johnny Ringo, and Culybill Brocius were notorious and the stage was set. In the end, the bodies of Frank and Tom Mclaury and young Billy Clanton, only 28 years old were killed in the exchange of gun fire.

To bring this home for me, it is important to note that through all of life’s challenges, it is important that we keep faith alive. Today, we are seeing terrible things taking place around the world. The ultimatum give to Christians in Iraq to convert to Islam or face death in the most horrible ways.

Violence is seen everywhere. It is romanticized in our culture. I can appreciate that, but all of this should be a way of learning not to repeat the mistakes of the past. We should remember that no matter how bad things are, Jesus is still in control. Where would you have been in this scene of the OK Coral? We have Police in America today that risk their lives for the sake of protecting the public.

In Chicago, it is like a war zone. Navy Corpsman are serving in Chicago for training how to treat bullet wounds. We need to pray for America that many more will convert to the Catholic Faith before it is too late.

Doc Holliday’s story of coming home to the Catholic Faith is truly an inspiration, but I hope that more people will find it better and easier to learn this truth growing up in life than to wait until the end.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

“Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus." 1 Corinthians 15:55-56

Evelyn Sciales writes, "WOW !! This was so interesting.. Sitting Bull became a Catholic? Is this awesome? I have to tell everyone.. no one’s going to believe this. Buffalo Bill.. I just saw a movie about him the other day.. Who knew he became Catholic right beofre he died. Imagine going to heaven and seeing Sitting Bull.. Think he still wears that Indian get up? Buffalo Bill.. In heaven.. Doc Holliday in Heaven.. His cousin a Catholic Nun.. Definately sharing this. Thanks Donald for this. I enjoyed every minute of it.."

Kevin Jones Writes, "very interesting reading & a great glimpse into western history."

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