The Clarence Snyder Factor in A.A.

Dick B.

© 2005 All rights reserved,

Clarence H. Snyder got sober in February, 1938, with the help of his sponsor, A.A. co-founder Dr. Bob. He was one of the forty Akron Pioneers who established A.A. as a reliable and effective spiritual program for recovery from, and cure of, alcoholism.


But for the influence and actions of Clarence, Alcoholics Anonymous might never have grown beyond Akron, nor achieved nationwide and eventually world-wide recognition as the society to join if you were really serious about quitting drinking, willing to place your reliance on the Creator, and do “anything” to overcome the seemingly hopeless curse of alcoholism. For, in Akron, A.A. became focused on individual religious deliverance and early hospitalization, but not upon widespread enlargement of its numbers. In New York, the Society spurned the religious emphasis of Akron, focused on book sales, and abstinence, but had little to show in achieving recovery. On the other hand, the emergence of Clarence Snyder as a young, vigorous, promoter gave the fledgling fellowship a growth spurt that changed the society’s emphasis.


Clarence Snyder’s footsteps marked out a path that deserves revived attention and long-lasting appreciation in the ranks of dedicated A.A. members today. And the following are some of the milestones that justify the applause.


Clarence well learned and knew the original Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship principles and practices. They enabled him to achieve and maintain continuous sobriety to the date of his death in 1984 and to attain the status of the member with the longest period of sobriety at that time.


At the very outset of his recovery efforts, Clarence accepted: (1) A.A.’s original insistence on a belief in Almighty God, the Creator, (2) the necessity for coming to Him through His Son Jesus Christ, and (3) the Bible as the main source of all for religious truth. He also understood and espoused Akron’s emphasis on the Book of James (the healing book as he called it), the Sermon on the Mount (which, as stated by Dr. Bob and Bill W., contained the underlying philosophy of A.A.), and 1 Corinthians 13 – which epitomized A.A.’s emphasis on love). Nonetheless, Clarence was quick to recognize and absorb the life-changing ideas of the Oxford Group and its four absolute standards – honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love.


Clarence was perhaps the first of the A.A. pioneers to recognize the plight of its early Roman Catholic members who were enjoined by their Cleveland priest to cease attending the Protestant-oriented Akron fellowship meetings.


In consequence, he defied his own sponsor’s refusal to establish a non-Oxford Group meeting for alcoholics only. In May of 1939, he founded the first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting – in the home of a Cleveland Roman Catholic AA. And, in so doing, he opened the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous to what has become the largest denominational segment of A.A.’s religious population..


Though A.A.’s Big Book had only just been published, Clarence fully embraced its contents to the letter. He had even participated in writing in the story portion of the book. He mastered its directions for taking the Twelve Steps and in short order was taking newcomers through their Steps in droves.


Clarence beat the bushes for still suffering alcoholics in Cleveland and elsewhere. He openly advertised the A.A. program and freely used his own name and address as a tool for promoting the recovery program. In one year, largely through Clarence’s efforts, the Cleveland A.A. groups grew from one to thirty and achieved an unequalled 93% success rate among the Cleveland members.


The broader Cleveland program was unique in its non-sectarian character. Yet it taught from the Big Book, the 12 Steps, the Bible, and the Oxford Group’s Four Absolutes. Its literature was replete with references to all four, and the masthead of its Central Bulletin carried the Four Absolutes – Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness, and Love – prominently at the top of the page. The fellowship there offered wholesome sports and social activities as well. In the midst of it all, Clarence never failed in his enthusiasm for, and loyalty to, his sponsor Dr. Bob Smith and Bob’s wife, Anne Smith.


Clarence had a bent for fellowship organization. It had a lasting effect on what have become some of A.A.’s strong points – belief in and reliance on God, rotating leadership, and the informed sponsorship of newcomers. He also saw the importance of continuing Akron’s emphasis on early hospitalization to save the lives of newcomers. And he never flagged  in giving proper credit to the Bible as the foundation of A.A.’s basic ideas.


The service of this man to alcoholics and A.A. was life-long. It was given without charge or profit and without financial gain. He sponsored thousands—many still alive and sober today. He established spiritual retreats for AAs and their families, and these continue to this very day. His marriage to Grace Moore added a new dimension to his influential ministry. And Grace worked at his side, learning how to sponsor and how to conduct and lead the retreats with Clarence. She carried them forward after his death and led them until the date of her death. See That Amazing Grace (


The Snyder factor in today’s A.A. probably represents its strongest force for retaining belief in God, respect for religion, disciplined use of the Big Book, guided instruction in taking the 12 Steps the original way, and recognizing A.A.’s everlasting debt to the Good Book and to the Oxford Group.




For further information on early A.A. history, see;;


For more on Clarence’s specific contributions, see “Our A.A. Legacy to the Faith Community: A Twelve-Step Guide for Those Who Want to Believe” (, Clarence’s three pamphlets – “Going Through the Steps,” “My Higher Power, the Lightbulb,” and “Sponsorship.” A good biography can be found in Mitch K.’s “How It Worked.”

Audio Talks

Clarence Snyder's Hawaii Speech

To listen to Clarence Snyder's Hawaii Speech, where he describes early A.A. and the 12 Steps,
click here

Dick B. talks about the Clarence Snyder Factor in A.A.

To listen to Dick B. talk about the Clarence Snyder Factor in A.A.,
click here


Important Links

For the book about Grace Snyder titled That Amazing Grace, click here

For a talk by Grace Snyder, check the A.A. Roots Revival site, and click here

For an excellent collection of Clarence Snyder tapes, check with A.A. Roots Revival, and click here

Coming Soon:

Clarence Snyder Video





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© 2005. Paradise Research Publications, Inc.
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©Dick B.

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