Early life and education
Holliday was born in Griffin, Georgia, to Henry Burroughs Holliday and Alice Jane
(McKey) Holliday.[3] He was of English and Scottish ancestry.[4] His father served
in the Mexican–American War and the Civil War (as a Confederate). When the war
ended, Henry brought home an adopted son named Francisco and taught Holliday
to shoot.[5] Holliday was baptized at the First Presbyterian Church of Griffin in
1852.[6] In 1864, his family moved to
Valdosta, Georgia,[6] where his mother
died of tuberculosis on September 16, 1866.[3] The same disease killed his
adopted brother. Three months after his wife's death, his father married Rachel

Holliday attended the Valdosta Institute,[6] where he received a classical
education in rhetoric, grammar, mathematics, history, and languages—principally
Latin, but some French and Ancient Greek.[6]

In 1870, 19-year-old Holliday left home for Philadelphia. On March 1, 1872, at age
20, he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Pennsylvania College
of Dental Surgery (now part of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental
Medicine).[3] Holliday graduated five months before his 21st birthday, so the
school held his degree until he turned 21, the minimum age required to practice

Begins dental practice
Atlanta in 1864
Holliday moved to St. Louis, Missouri, so he could work as an assistant for a
classmate, A. Jameson Fuches, Jr.[2]:51 Less than four months later, at the end of
July, he relocated to Atlanta, where he joined a dental practice. He lived with his
uncle and his family so he could begin to build up his dental practice.[8] A few
weeks before Holliday's birthday, dentist Arthur C. Ford advertised in the Atlanta
papers that Holliday would substitute for him while he was attending dental

Fight in Georgia
Holliday was reported to have been involved in a shooting on the Withlacoochee
River, Georgia, in 1873. At age 22, Holliday went with some friends to their
favorite swimming hole, but discovered it was occupied by a group of African-
American youths. Holliday and his companions told them to leave, but they
refused. Accounts of this event vary. Holliday left and returned carrying either a
shotgun or a pistol and started shooting, either at or over the heads of the black
youths. Some of the African-Americans may have shot back. There are no
contemporaneous accounts of the incident. Some family members and friends
allege that Holliday killed one to three of the youths, but other members of
Holliday's family dispute those accounts.[2]:64–67

Diagnosed with tuberculosis
Shortly after beginning his dental practice, Holliday was diagnosed with
tuberculosis.[9] He was given only a few months to live, but was told that a drier
and warmer climate might slow the deterioration of his health.[3][10] After Dr.
Ford's return in September, Holliday left for Dallas, Texas, the "last big city before
the uncivilized.