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Brenau Draws on Doc Holliday Legend with March 3 Appearance by Georgia Author of the Year Victoria Wilcox

Feb 11, 2015
Brenau Staff
James Henry "Doc" Holliday
James Henry “Doc” Holliday

More than 125 years after the death of legendary Georgia-born Old West gunfighter and gambler John H. “Doc” Holliday, Brenau University will host a special program Tuesday, March 3, that explores the continuing prominence in popular culture  of Holliday and others whose principal claim to fame was a 30-second gunfight at the OK Corral in  Tombstone, Arizona, Oct. 26, 1881.

Free and open to the public, the program features Georgia “Author of the Year” Victoria Wilcox, who has produced a trilogy of novels based on the life of Holliday. The Last Decision, the third book in the Wilcox series titled Southern Son: The Saga of Doc Holliday is scheduled for publication in May. Wilcox will sign copies of the first two books, Inheritance and Gone West, following the program in historic Pearce Auditorium on the Brenau Gainesville campus. Signed copies of The Last Decision can be pre-ordered that evening as well.

Noted film critic Eleanor Ringel Cater, a self-acknowledged Doc Holliday aficionado, joins Wilcox on stage for a wide-ranging discussion of the Holliday story in fact and fiction.

Members of the audience are encouraged to dress up in Western attire and take advantage of an old-timey photo booth, stocked with some extra western-style accessories for selfies and other photos to post on a special webpage for the event.

Brenau students will get into the act as well with some events leading up to the main program, including a screening of the film, Tombstone, in Thurmond McRae Lecture Hall on the Brenau Gainesville campus at 7 p.m. Monday, March 2, and some fun instruction in learning the mathematical and critical thinking concepts applied in Doc Holliday’s favorite game: poker.  Wilcox also will appear at the Gainesville Rotary Club meeting at noon Monday, March 2, at First Baptist Church.

Wilcox, founding director of the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum, which opened in 1996 in the historical Fayetteville, Georgia, spent close to two decades on what would become the research for her fictional trilogy.

Author of the 'Souther Son: The Saga of Doc Holliday" trilogy Victoria Wilcox
Victoria Wilcox

“I didn’t start out to be a novelist,” said Wilcox, who has become over the past two decades arguably the leading authority on Holliday. “I was just answering TV and newspaper reporters’ questions about the people behind the Holliday House. But every time I was interviewed, the reporters got their facts wrong. So I made up a fact sheet for their reference, and they still got it wrong. Then I wrote out an eight-page handout, detailing dates and names – and they still got it wrong.”

Ironically, she selected historical fiction instead of biography as a means to set the record straight.

She said that she concluded she “should leave the confusing facts to the historians and use them as a basis for a well-researched historical fiction instead. Then, people who didn’t usually read history could read the history, wrapped around a great story.”

Wilcox was interested in a little-told aspect of story: the nexus of the real Holliday story and the basis for the fictional characters created by Atlanta author Margaret Mitchell in her southern classic Gone with the Wind. The fictional Scarlett O’Hara’s best friend Melanie Hamilton appears to have been based on Doc Holliday’s first cousin (and first love interest) Mattie Holliday.

The fact that Doc Holliday died on Nov. 8, 1887, and Mitchell was born 13 years later, also on Nov. 8, threw oil on Wilcox’s creative coincidence juices since she, too, was born on Nov. 8.

Victoria Wilcox Doc Holliday Event PosterMuch of the misinformation, Wilcox asserts, comes from movies and television, which have drawn on the Doc Holliday character in one form or another since the beginnings of both those media. Earp, who lived until 1929, actually hung around early Hollywood with silent film cowboy stars Tom Mix and William S. Hart, who both were pallbearers at Earp’s funeral. But the Earp-Holliday-OK Corral story really did not catch on there until the 1930s – and then the pace was relentless. Two of the most successful films were Kevin Costner’s Wyatt Earp in 1994 with Dennis Quaid as Holliday and Tombstone a year earlier with what is regarded by many as an Oscar-worthy film characterization of Holliday by Val Kilmer.

And as if the “real legend” was not enough to distort the real history of the Georgian, Holliday characters have made appearances in episodes of the British TV science fiction series Dr. Who and in a gunfight with crew members of the starship Enterprise in the third season of the Star Trek series on American TV.

Still, Wilcox says she loves it all, and she ticks off her own favorites in the Holliday oeuvre and among the re-enactors in an eclectic group that includes 1930s Latin heartthrob Caesar Romero, Walter Huston, Victor Mature, Jason Robards, Kirk Douglas, Willie Nelson and Dennis Quaid’s brother, Randy, in a 2000 film Purgatory.


“It was the ‘because’ that fascinated me,” said Wilcox, “and why this Southern boy became a Western legend.”

Visit the Victoria Wilcox Doc Holliday Program page for more information about the event.