Roundtable Series on
A.A.’s Biblical Roots
By Dick B.
Akron A.A. Pioneers, Their “Program,” and Their Good Book
Dr. Bob and the Good Book Answer
In 1948, at his last major talk to AAs, Dr. Bob made these important statements
about the Bible:
In the early days . . . our stories didn’t amount to anything to speak of. When
we started in on Bill D. [Bill Dotson was A.A. Number Three], we had no Twelve
Steps either; we had no Traditions. But we were convinced that the answer to our
problems was in the Good Book. . . . It wasn’t until 1938 that the teachings and
efforts and studies that had been going on were crystallized in the form of the
Twelve Steps. I didn’t write the Twelve Steps. I had nothing to do with the
writing of them. . . . We already had the basic ideas, though not in terse and
tangible form. We got them, as I said, as a result of our study of the Good Book
[The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous Biographical sketches Their last major
talks, pp. 13-14].
The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Bible Emphasis
A.A.’s Akron Genesis really began with Dr. Bob, his Christian church activities
as a youngster, and his excellent Bible training as a youth in church and in
Dr. Bob was born and raised in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. His parents were pillars
of the North Congregational Church in St. Johnsbury. From childhood through high
school, Bob each week attended the Congregational church, its Sunday School,
evening service, Monday night Christian Endeavor, and sometimes its Wednesday
evening prayer meeting. This was likely at the insistence of his mother. Yet,
Bob continued membership in Christian churches most of his life: First, there
was St. Johnsbury Congregational in his youth. Then, possibly St. Luke’s
Protestant Episcopal Church. Then, probably the Church of Our Saviour in Akron,
where his kids attended Sunday School. Then, for sure, Akron’s Westminster
Presbyterian Church where Dr. Bob and Anne Smith were charter members from June
3, 1936 to April 3, 1942. Finally, a year before his death, Dr. Bob became a
communicant at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Akron.
Dr. Bob told AAs he had nothing to do with writing the Twelve Steps. Nor did he
have much to do with the writing of A.A.’s basic text, the “Big Book,” other
than to review the draft manuscripts as Bill Wilson passed them to Bob for
approval prior to publication in the Spring of 1939. But Dr. Bob did make some
very clear statements about the Bible and A.A. And it was in Akron where A.A.’s
basic biblical ideas were honed, tried, and then later put into terse and
tangible form at Bill Wilson’s hands.
Dr. Bob said A.A.’s basic ideas came from the Bible. Dr. Bob and Bill each
stated quite often that Jesus’s sermon on the mount contained the underlying
spiritual philosophy of A.A. And Dr. Bob often read to AAs from those Bible
passages. He pointed out that the A.A. slogans “First Things First” and “Easy
Does It” were taken respectively from Matthew 6:33 and 6:34 in the Sermon. When
someone asked Dr. Bob a question about the A.A. program, his usual response was:
“What does it say in the Good Book?” He declared that A.A. pioneers were
“convinced that the answer to their problems was in the Good Book.” He added:
“To some of us older ones, the parts we found absolutely essential were the
Sermon on the Mount, the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of
James.” In fact, Bill Wilson said that James was so popular with the pioneers
that many favored calling the A.A. fellowship “The James Club” [Pass It On, p.
The Biblical emphasis in A.A.’s Akron Group Number One involved much more than
the points just covered.. Akron meetings opened with prayer. As mentioned, they
were called “old fashioned prayer meetings.” Bible devotionals such as The Upper
Room, My Utmost for His Highest, and The Runner’s Bible were regular fare at the
meetings–-and also in individual Quiet Times, and Quiet Times with Anne Smith
each morning at the Smith home. Quiet Time itself had distinct Biblical roots.
Almost invariably, Scripture was regularly read at meetings. In addition,
Scripture passages, both from devotionals and from the Good Book itself, were
often the fountainhead for topics discussed at pioneer meetings. Bible study was
particularly stressed for all. Dr. Bob called every meeting of early A.A. a
“Christian Fellowship;” and early A.A. was in fact a constituent part of “A
First Century Christian Fellowship.” As has been detailed in my many titles,
every single Twelve Step idea can be traced to specific Bible verses and
segments read or quoted in early A.A.. Furthermore, early Akron AAs were
required to “Surrender.” This meant accepting on one’s knees Jesus Christ as
Lord and Saviour. Older members then prayed with newcomers in the manner
specified in James 5:16.
And how did all such Bible material wind up in A.A.? Certainly not from, nor
properly described as traveling through, Bill Wilson. It was the daily grist of
the Akron experimental work to deliver drunks. Particularly the work in the
summer of 1935 and often thereafter where Bill Wilson actually was in
There is a final point. One that really marks the beginning of the Akron
Genesis. The details were only recently unearthed in my research. My focus has
been on Christian Endeavor, the world-wide Christian church movement for youth,
to which Dr. Bob belonged as a youngster. That movement, its practices, and
principles can be seen as having great impact on many of the basic and unique
aspects of Akron A.A.. These special Akron features differed substantially from
the Oxford Group approaches and principles with which Bill Wilson had been
indoctrinated on the East Coast. They did not involve the Four Absolutes, nor
the 5 C’s, nor “Restitution,” nor “Guidance,” nor “sharing for witness,” nor
other distinctly Oxford Group ideas with which Bob and Bill were both familiar
from their respective Oxford Group connections.
The Akron prayer meetings, Bible studies, discussions from devotional
literature, confessions of Christ, encouragement as to church affiliation and
Christian outreach were a distinct characteristic of the Akron program. They
were not emphasized in New York. They seemingly demonstrate a powerful Christian
Endeavor influence on Dr. Bob–particularly because he specifically mentioned his
Christian Endeavor membership and because that movement began as a unique
product of Dr. Bob’s own New England area [See Francis E. Clark, Christian
Endeavor in All Lands; Amos R. Wells, Expert Endeavor: A Text-book of Christian
Endeavor Methods and Principles].
The Basic Biblical Tools of the Pioneers’ Program
And of what did their basic program consist? They had the Bible, and they had
the Oxford Group principles. These they studied and incorporated into their very
simple spiritual program of recovery. They usually hospitalized the newcomer,
shared their victories with him, left him with only a Bible for reading, and had
him surrender to God before he was discharged, after only a few days of
hospitalization. They usually handed him a copy of The Upper Room. Then they
introduced him to others. He was counseled by Dr. Bob and by Anne. Each morning,
he attended Quiet Times led quite early each day by Anne Smith at the Smith Home
in Akron where there was regular Bible study, prayer, and requests for God’s
guidance. At these extended sessions, Anne Smith shared ideas from her spiritual
journal and invited discussion of the topics. The pioneers and their families
had other meetings each day. And they had a regular “Oxford Group” meeting twice
each week (one as a set-up meeting). They were encouraged to attend church and
have religious affiliations. Quiet Time was a “must.” The Bible was stressed for
reading. They opened their meetings with prayer, then read Scripture, then had
discussions on how to live according to biblical principles, then surrendered to
Jesus Christ if they had not already done so, were informed about newcomers
still needing help, then closed with the Lord’s Prayer, and fellowshipped with
each other. They did observe some of the basic Oxford Group life-changing
practices, known as the Five C’s, usually with Dr. Bob. And they often stayed in
the homes of Dr. Bob and Anne (and several others in the Akron area) until they
were well enough to sally forth.
A Day with the Akron A.A. Pioneers
Most of our information sources have never seen the light of day as far as the
average AA is concerned. For the most part, AAs usually don’t know about, and
probably have never even seen, Anne Smith’s Journal, or the books of Dr. Bob’s
Library, or the transcripts of Akron old-timer tapes that are lodged in GSO
archives in New York, or the papers of old-timers like Clarence Snyder and Bob
E. Most have little or no knowledge of the four AA of Akron pamphlets that have
been on sale for a number of years in Akron and Cleveland. But a few of us have
had the opportunity to interview some of the survivors of our earliest days, or
their immediate friends or families. And the results enable a picture, albeit
reconstructed by this author, of what a single day in the Akron fellowship in
the period from 1935 to 1938, and even after, was really like.
Early Morning Quiet Time at Dr. Bob’s Home
Let’s start with Quiet Time at the home of Dr. Bob and Anne Smith. And see
Appendix One in the syllabus accompanying this presentation for even more
Dr. Bob’s daughter told me in person that the “guys” who came over [to the Smith
Home] often said they were coming to Anne Smith’s quiet times for “spiritual
pablum.” Let’s start with some of the documented descriptions of Anne’s early
morning Quiet Times, and also Quiet Times conducted by other pioneers
individually and in groups:
He [an alcoholic] must have devotions every morning–a “quiet time” of prayer and
some reading from the Bible and other religious literature. Unless this is
faithfully followed, there is grave danger of backsliding [From the report of
Rockefeller’s investigator Frank Amos, published in DR. BOB and the Good
Oldtimers, p. 131].
The A.A. members of that time did not consider meetings necessary to maintain
sobriety. They were simply “desirable.” Morning devotion and “quiet time,”
however, were musts (DR. BOB, p. 136).
Daily Quiet Time. This cannot be emphasized too much. Not a day should be
missed. The early morning hours are best. It may be that more than one quiet
time will be needed during the day. Whenever need arises one should stop and
pray and listen. The method of holding quiet time varies some with each
individual. All include prayer and Bible reading and study and patient listening
to God [From Anne Smith’s journal. Quoted in Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal,
1933-1939, 3rd ed., p. 61; see also Dick B., Good Morning! Quiet Time, Morning
Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A., 2d ed., pp. 6-9].
At that time [when “Dad and Mom and Bill were working out the program”] I [Dr.
Bob’s daughter Sue] was getting involved with the quiet times they had in the
morning. The guys would come, and Mom would have quiet time with them. There was
a cookie salesman and he’d bring the stale cookies over, and we’d take up a
collection for three pounds of coffee for 29 cents. They’d have their quiet
time, which is a holdover from the Oxford Group, where they read the Bible,
prayed and listened, and got guidance. Then they’d have coffee and cookies. This
was early in the morning, when the sky was starting to get light. Sometimes
they’d get us out of bed to do this [Bob Smith and Sue Smith Windows, Children
of the Healer, pp. 43-44; Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal, p. 54].
Sue also remembered the quiet time in the mornings–how they sat around reading
the Bible. Later, they also used The Upper Room, a Methodist publication that
provided a daily inspirational message, interdenominational in its approach.
“Then somebody said a prayer,” she recalled. “After that, we were supposed to
say one to ourselves. Then we’d be quiet. Finally, everybody would share what
they got or didn’t get. This lasted for at least a half hour and sometimes went
as long as an hour” [DR. BOB, pp. 71-72; Dick B., The Akron Genesis of
Alcoholics Anonymous, pp. 204-08].
[John R., Akron pioneer, remembered] Before one of these meetings [at Dr. Bob’s
home in the morning], Anne used to pull out a little book [her spiritual
journal] and quote from it. We would discuss it. Then we would see what Anne
would suggest from it for our discussion [Dick B., The Akron Genesis of A.A., p.
110; Anne Smith’s Journal, p. 56]
And here’s a tiny segment from Anne’s journal. It’s one of over 100. Now, just
picture a reading from the Bible at Anne’s function. Then a prayer. Then a Quiet
Time, sharing what was received. Then Anne’s reading the following from her
journal and inviting discussion of the remarks:
Confession. Don’t be shocked at any confession. It is hypocritical for you
yourself have at least thought of doing something similar. A man may share many
problems, but not his deepest one. You must share deeply with him, UNDER
GUIDANCE; you may be guided to share your deepest sin, and this will clear the
way for him to share his. The time will come when he will begin to tell you
things about himself that he doesn’t tell to others. Why are people so afraid to
face their deepest problems? Because they think there is no answer. When they
learn there is one, they will believe it can work out for them, and they will be
really honest about themselves. When we fail to share, people think their sin is
unique, but sharing lifts a tremendous load. It is absolutely necessary to face
people with the moral test [absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love].
Fundamentally, sin is independence toward God, living without God. Seeing one’s
self as God sees one, brings hatred out of sin [From A.A. General Service
Archives copy, p. 4].
I’m not sure we can state precisely what happened every moment in the course of
a pioneer day, but we do know certain facts for sure.
Hospital visits with newcomers: Teams of AAs (many called themselves the
“alcoholic squad of the Oxford Group”) visited newcomers who had been
hospitalized at the Akron City Hospital. The visitors told their stories. They
told the newcomer that Dr. Bob had the answer to their problems. Sometimes they
even gobbled up the food the hospitalized “pigeon” was unable to stomach. Dr.
Bob also visited the patient each day. By his own account: “I used to go to the
hospital and stand there and talk. I talked many a time to a chap in the bed for
five or six hours.” On the final day, Dr. Bob would make sure the newcomer
believed in God and then would have him get out of bed, get down on his knees,
and “make surrender.” That meant accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour [The
Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 12; Dick B., That Amazing Grace, pp.
25-27; The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous, 2d ed., pp 188-89, 192-97; The
Golden Text of A.A.: God, the Pioneers, and Real Spirituality, pp. 31-32].
Warren C., who came to A.A. in Cleveland in July, 1939, said of hospitalization:
This was so much a part of the treatment that “there was considerable debate
about whether he [Warren C.] should be admitted to the Fellowship since he had
not been hospitalized” [DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, pp. 102, 109-10].
Daily meetings: [Dr.] Bob said, “We used to have daily meetings at a friend’s
house [the home of T. Henry Williams in Akron]. All this happened at a time when
everybody was broke, awfully broke. It was probably much easier for us to be
successful when broke that it would have been if we’d had a checking account
apiece. We were, every one of us, so painfully broke. . . I think now that it
was providentially arranged. Until 1940, or maybe early 1941, we held the Akron
meetings at the residence of that good friend, who allowed us to bang up the
plaster and the doorjambs, carting chairs upstairs and downstairs. Then we
outgrew that [The Co-Founders, pp. 13-14]. Since many lived at the Smith home
itself as well as at several other A.A. homes, and since none was prospering,
historian Ernest Kurtz opined that, in hindsight, most of their waking lives was
a continuous A.A. meeting [Kurtz, Not-God, p. 56]. Focused as he was on his own
not-God thesis, Kurtz seemingly missed the more insightful observations as to
the nature of these meetings by Dr. Bob, by early AAs, and by other observers at
that day. But Dr. Bob specifically characterized every meeting as a “Christian
Fellowship.” [DR. BOB, p. 118; Dick B., The Akron Genesis of A.A., pp. 219-20].
Akron old-timer Bob E., both in a letter to Wilson’s secretary Nell Wing and in
a memo to Bill’s wife Lois, said Dr. Bob referred to A.A. as a “Christian
Fellowship” [Dick B., The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 220, fn 4]
The Oxford Group itself was “A First Century Christian Fellowship” [Dick B., The
Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous]. AAs themselves perceived this Christian
fellowship emphasis where Bible study, prayer, use of Christian devotionals, and
reading of Christian literature were stressed, along with breaking bread
together [See Acts 1:13-14; 2:41-47; 4:32-37; 10:34-48; 12:26-49; DR. BOB and
the Good Oldtimers, pp. 135-36]. For Sam Shoemaker had often written of the
importance of Christian fellowship, quoting in many cases from the Book of Acts
[See Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker and A.A., pp. 59-60].
Early AAs such as Bob E. were speaking of living “Christian fellowship” [See
Kurtz, Not-God, p. 55]. And outside observers commented on the similarity
between Akron’s old-fashioned prayer fellowship and First Century Christianity
[See DR. BOB, pp. 129, 131, 135-36; Pass It On, p. 184; Thomsen, Bill W., p.
Other Daily Happenings in Early Akron A.A.
Input from Anne and Henrietta: In addition to the quiet times, hospital visits,
and frequent meetings, the pioneers were beneficiaries of the efforts of Anne
Smith and Henrietta Seiberling personally. Anne was legendary in her work with
new people. She acted as counselor, nurse, evangelist, and teacher; and the
pioneers had great confidence in her love and advice. She often shared important
Bible passages with them. She used the phone much to keep in touch with those
who were not actually present at the Smith home. Henrietta Seiberling paid daily
visits to the Smith home, kept in touch by phone, and shared many important
Bible and Oxford Group ideas with the early people and their families [See
chapter by Dick B. on Henrietta Seiberling, Women Pioneers in 12 Step Recovery
(MN: Hazelden, 1999), pp. 25-41].
Individual reading and study: Individual AAs did a great deal of reading on
their own. The Upper Room was a major guide. So was The Runner’s Bible. And
daily Bible study, prayer and Quiet Time were important aspects of their
spiritual growth and understanding. The number of Christian books in wide
circulation and use is quite astounding compared to the situation in A.A. today
(See Dick B., Dr. Bob and His Library, and The Books Early AAs Read for
Spiritual Growth, 7th ed.).
Religious comradeship: There most assuredly was socialization and socializing,
but such words has been used in confusing ways by recent commentators as a
substitute for what A.A. Trustee-to-be Frank Amos more appropriately called
religious comradeship. For it appears that fellowship and comradeship with
believers was far more important in those earliest days than mere social
activity. The pioneers and their families were deadly serious, and they took
their reliance on our Creator very seriously and shared it in religious
The “Regular” Meetings
The Unique Focus in Akron: Simplicity was the watch word. And prayer was the
If you do as I did, and examine the kind of meetings Dr. Bob attended as a youth
in Christian Endeavor, you can see how much Akron A.A. resembled the Christian
Endeavor program of Dr. Bob’s youth (See Dick B., Dr. Bob and His Library,
Appendix 1, “Dr. Bob’s Biblical and Christian Background,” pp. 111-19; Clark,
Christian Endeavor in All Lands, supra). In an apparent effort to stigmatize the
Oxford Group’s acknowledged and very clear influence on A.A. and then to develop
excuses for A.A.’s departure from the Oxford Group, commentators (including Bill
Wilson himself) have ignored the startling difference between Akron A.A., New
York A.A., and regular Oxford Group meetings of the 1930's. Akron was just plain
different! In Akron, there was no Calvary Church where either Frank Buchman or
Sam Shoemaker called the shots. There were no Calvary House meetings adjacent to
the church of the dynamic Sam Shoemaker. In fact, there was no Sam Shoemaker
doing the mentoring. There were no “teams” or “houseparties” or even the kind of
“sharing” that was so typical of the Oxford Group activity.
The “old fashioned prayer meeting”: A typical Akron meeting began with prayer.
And the prayer was not the Serenity Prayer so widely used at the beginning of
today’s A.A. meetings. Akron’s meetings ended with the Lord’s Prayer. There was
usually an open Bible present, with the meeting’s leader reading Scripture to
the group. There were prayers during the meetings. There were announcements
about newcomers in the hospital who needed visitation by the “alcoholic
squadron.”. There often was reading from a devotional such as The Upper Room.
There were brief group Quiet Times, but these were hardly peculiar to the Oxford
Group. For such “Quiet Time” has been observed in the morning, in one form or
another, from the earliest Bible days (See Dick B., Good Morning!: Quiet Time,
Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A.). Quiet Time was widely prevalent in
the world-wide Student Christian Movement, the YMCA, Christian Endeavor, and the
teachings of F. B. Meyer–-who influenced all the foregoing movements. It was
observed in the Christian Endeavor meetings Dr. Bob attended as a youth and in
the practices Sam Shoemaker advocated in his books. Sam, along with other
religious leaders, first called the practice The Morning Watch, and later, Quiet
Time. It meant prayer, Bible study, quiet time for receiving God’s guidance,
confession of Jesus Christ, and focus on fellowship. It did not mean “sharing”
of experience, strength, and hope–as the Oxford Group generally so often did,
and as New York meetings began to emphasize. Particularly significant is the
fact that early Akron A.A. meetings did not have “drunkalogs.” The focus was on
God, the Bible, and communicating with our Creator as His children.
Bible reading: Picture Dr. Bob’s tall, stern figure opening up his Bible and
then reading one of the following passages to the group–from portions that Dr.
Bob and the old-timers considered “absolutely essential”:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate
thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you,
do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and
persecute you. That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven. .
. . [From Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:43-45].
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth
corrupt, and where thieves break through to steal; But lay up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves
do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your
heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be
single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy
whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be
darkness, how great is that darkness. No man can serve two masters: for either
he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and
despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon [From Jesus’s sermon, Matthew
Charity (agape love) suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity
vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh
not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil: Rejoiceth not in
iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth [1 Corinthians 13:4-6].
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall
receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be
tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man; But every man is tempted when he
is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it
bringeth forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not
err, my beloved brethren [James 1:12-16].
No talk of drinking, or of ninety meetings in ninety days. No psychobabble,
chatter about relationships, or deadly fatalism. Just reading what God has said
on the important subjects of love, service to God, walking in the love of God,
and resisting temptation. What a day that would have been! What a day it could
be in our time!
The Surrenders “Upstairs”: You had to make surrender, whether at the hospital or
at a regular meeting when people were taken upstairs to be prayed over by the
“elders.” New York did not have surrenders patterned on the Book of James. Nor
at its meetings was there acceptance of Christ on your knees, group prayer to
have alcohol taken out of your life, or group prayer over the newcomer that he
might live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Akron A.A.’s specific focus on overcoming alcoholism: There is no evidence I
have seen that New York meetings or East Coast Oxford Group meetings, as such,
involved announcements about, or actual visitation of, the newcomer in the
hospital–visitation in groups as the “alcoholic squad” did in Akron. (However
Bill W.’s earlier months of sobriety in New York certainly did involve visits to
Towns Hospital, Calvary Mission, etc.). There is no evidence of any focus in
Akron on “team” life-changing such as that in which Bill Wilson participated in
New York in late 1935 when he was handling the business-men contacts in the huge
Oxford Group meetings for League of Nations President Hambro, whom Frank Buchman
had brought to the United States (See Dick B., Turning Point: A History of the
Spiritual Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous; New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam
Shoemaker, and A.A., 2d ed. I am not one of those who claims, believes, or has
found any evidence that either Frank Buchman or Sam Shoemaker turned his back on
drunks. I’ve heard otherwise in person from long-time Oxford Group activists
such as James Newton, Eleanor Forde Newton, James Houck, and T. Willard Hunter.
Moreover, some of the most famous Oxford Group books were those by Victor
Kitchen (I Was a Pagan) and Charles Clapp, Jr. (The Big Bender)–-two
problem-drinkers who were delivered from alcoholism in the Oxford Group. Well
known to A.A. historians also are the stories of Rowland Hazard, F. Shepard
Cornell, Ebby Thacher, and Bill Wilson–-drunks who were ministered to within the
ranks of East Coast Oxford Group people before A.A. began. However, the Oxford
Group of the mid and late 1930's had its focus on world-changing, on world
teams, and on changing the lives of world leaders and nations. By contrast, the
“clandestine lodge of the Oxford Group” in Akron was for helping drunks (DR. BOB
and the Good Oldtimers, p. 121). And its precursor became famous for helping Bud
Firestone overcome his drinking problem in Akron (See Dick B., The Akron Genesis
of Alcoholics Anonymous, 2d ed.).
Fellowship socializing: There does not appear to be much evidence of fellowship
socializing on the New York scene. Yet this was regular fare at the home of T.
Henry Williams and others in Akron on Saturday nights. No evidence on the New
York path of recreational activities observed in Cleveland, not long after A.A.
began–with bowling and baseball and huge picnics and lots of food and coffee
(See Dick B., That Amazing Grace: The Role of Clarence and Grace S. in
Alcoholics Anonymous, pp. 78-80).
The Frank Amos Reports to John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
Bill Wilson wanted to raise money for hospital chains, paid-workers, and
literature (Pass It On, pp 184-85). Bill was able to see John D. Rockefeller,
Jr. Rockefeller sent Frank Amos to Akron to see what Dr. Bob and his associates
were accomplishing. Amos thoroughly investigated, interviewing many in Akron,
including doctors, a judge, A.A.’s non-alcoholic teachers such as Henrietta
Seiberling and T. Henry and Clarace Williams, and a number of the men, their
wives, and “in some cases, their mothers.” Some details are reported in DR. BOB
and the Good Oldtimers at pages 128 to 136. And I made it a point to look at the
original Amos reports during research trips to New York. As we will reiterate in
a later session, if you want to see the highly successful pioneer program in
action, there are two basic places to look: (1) The personal stories of Ohio
people in the First Edition of A.A.’s Big Book. (2) The summary of the “Program”
by Frank Amos. It should be underlined that Amos would soon one of A.A.’s first
Amos said of the 110 members surveyed in the Akron-Cleveland area a year after
his first report, “in many respects, their meetings have taken on the form of
the meetings described in the Gospels [sic] of the early Christians during the
first century” (DR. BOB, pp. 135-136). During an earlier meeting in
Rockefeller’s private boardroom with Rockefeller’s associates, including Amos,
Albert Scott (chairman of the trustees of Riverside Church) said: “Why, this is
first-century Christianity! . . . What can we do to help?” [Pass It On, p. 184].
The Amos report described the Akron “Program.” Amos said
it was being carried out faithfully by the Akron group. The men in the group, he
said, all looked to Dr. Bob for leadership. And these were the specifics Amos
set forth about the program (DR. BOB, p. 131):
• An alcoholic must realize that he is an alcoholic,
incurable from a medical viewpoint, and that he must never drink anything with
alcohol in it.
• He must surrender himself absolutely to God, realizing that in himself there
is no hope.
• Not only must he want to stop drinking permanently, he must remove from his
life other sins such as hatred, adultery, and others which frequently accompany
alcoholism. Unless he will do this absolutely, Smith and his associates refuse
to work with him.
• He must have devotions every morning–a “quiet time” of prayer and some reading
from the Bible and other religious literature. Unless this is faithfully
followed, there is grave danger of backsliding.
• He must be willing to help other alcoholics get straightened out. This throws
up a protective barrier and strengthens his own willpower and convictions.
• It is important, but not vital, that he meet frequently with other reformed
alcoholics and form both a social and a religious comradeship.
• Important, but not vital, that he attend some religious service at least once
For up-dated and further information on A.A.'s Bible Roots, see:
This website is designed and maintained by
American Creations of Maui
American Creations of Maui