| print this
Last of TheTribe
Tribute to Bob Smith
of Our Co-Founder Dr. Bob
Smith is dead. As his lovely wife Mona has written, thousands
will be writing condolences and mourning the loss of this
great warriorThe Amazing Bob, as Mona
called him in her reports of his recent illness and hospitalization.
Thousands will write, phone, send condolences, and mourn.
They will say lots of great things about Smitty.
Some of these things I know. And some I dont. But
I do believe I have a special relationship with the Tribe
that merits reporting because it shows how much Smitty gave
and was willing to give of love and service in his last
few yearsin his late seventies and eighties. And thats
when I knew him.
I first began researching AA history and writing about it,
I was immediately in touch with Dr. Bobs daughter
Sue Smith Windows. It was she who showed me some of Dr.
Bobs books among the host she had in her attic. It
was she who put to rest the erroneously reported story that
Dr. Bob had given away all his books. And it was she who
made a list for me of those she owned and later took me
to her attic to see in Akron. It was she who told me there
was another half in possession of her brother
(about which, there will be more in a moment). And it was
Sue who wrote the letter to GSO Archives Committee, asking
them to send me a copy of her mothers Journal,
which had languished in the shadows for decades. And it
was Sue, along with Smitty, who gave me many of the materials
and the endorsements for my first three AA history booksDr.
Bobs Library, Anne Smiths Journal, and The Akron
Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous. And Sue kept in touch with
Smitty as to everything she was doing.
after the Seattle Convention in 1990, I contacted Smitty,
told him that our little group in Marin County, California,
was going to do a history conference with AA archivist Frank
Mauser, a film of Bills Story, and the
Dawn of Hope story. Smitty declined. For one
thing, he didnt know me from Adams off ox. But
that situation was not to last for long. In the ensuing
year, I contacted Smitty by phone, told me of Sues
doings as to the Dr. Bob books and the Anne Smith Journal.
Smitty always got on the phone with his then wife Betty.
And the two promised immediate cooperation on two major
items: First, they would send me a list of the Dr. Bob books
that they had in their possession, and did so. Second, they
would dig out of their files the many letters in tribute
to Anne Smith on her death, that Bill had promised to publish,
but never did. And they sent me those letters.
with the almost complete list of the books Dr. Bob had read,
studied, circulated, and placed his name in, I wrote Dr.
Bobs Librarythe strange looking yellow book
that was published by The Bishop of Books. Later, I used
additional materials gathered from the Seiberling family,
the Clarence Snyder relatives, and many manuscripts to write
The Books Early AAs Read for Spiritual Growth. Meanwhile,
Anne Smiths Journal arrived from Frank
Mauser at GSO archives. I gave a copy to Sue, and she said
many pages were missing. Then, I went to Stepping Stones
and found another copythat visit facilitated by Frank
Mauser, Nell Wing, and Paul Lang, the archivist. And off
we went with Anne Smiths Spiritual Journal.
clues began to give the real picture of early AAsomething
that was being encouraged by Nell Wing and Frank Mauser.
But it was only the start. Because, I soon discovered how
many of Dr. Bobs books and how much of Anne Smiths
Journal made repeated references to Oxford Group books and
ideas as well as the writings of Rev. Sam Shoemaker. I also
was in touch with Congressman John Seiberling, who was teaching
at Akron Universitys Peace Center. And from John and
his sisters came more information about the Akron beginnings
and the Oxford Group. Then the flood gates were open. I
was in touch with a host of the Oxford Group survivors,
with the entire Shoemaker family, with T. Henry Williamss
daughter, and many others. From Jim and Ellie Newton in
Florida, George Vondermuhll, Jr. in Connecticut, Garth Lean
in Great Britain, and Willard Hunter in California, the
story of Shoemaker, the Oxford Group events in Akron, and
the Oxford Group ideas began to come in place.
Im getting ahead of my story. Our little AA group
in Marin sponsored the first real AA history conference
I know of. It was called A Day in Marin. Frank
Mauser was the principal speaker; the films were shown;
and I covered the Oxford Groupwith Franks telling
me I had a book in me. About eight hundred AAs attended.
And Frank asked when we were going to put on the Son
of Day in Marin. Which is what we did. Frank was not
available the next year. But when I contacted Smitty, he
and Betty jumped at the invitation. Willard Hunter came
and spoke on the Oxford Group. Mel B. came and spoke on
the spiritual roots of the program. And I spoke on the Bible
roots. Again, about eight hundred attended.This time, Smitty
and his wife Betty said over and over that they never felt
a greater uplift at any conference than this one on the
Biblical roots of early AA.
followed my title The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous.
It put together the real story of Akrons beginningsa
story that was partly and well recounted in A.A.s
DR. BOB and the Good Old timers, but lacked specifics. As
was beginning to occur, this title received endorsements
from Smitty, Sue, and John Seiberling, and it is still in
print and available.
years went by. I met with Smitty and Betty for lunch at
the San Diego Convention. I arranged to meet with Smitty
at the Minneapolis Convention and spoke just before he did
at Archives 2000. By that time, Sue and Smitty had published
their Children of the Healerwhich was
a pip. I knew them well by that time. And they spoke in
different cadences and with different words. As I read the
book, I felt as though I were actually listening to them
speak. The book faithfully recorded their voices,
their recollections, and a great deal more of our treasured
early spiritual history.
little more than a year ago, I was contacted by Ed M. in
Phoenix about putting on a history conference that would
really cover the fast retreating God part of
A.A. I suggested that he have as speakers, in addition to
me, Smitty, and Ray G.the archivist at Dr. Bobs
Home. I also suggested that Ray bring his archives, collections,
and the Dr. Bob and other books which had grown into large
proportions. Smitty came, and I met his new wife Mona for
the first time. Ray G. and his wife Ginny came and displayed
all their memorabilia, while Ray talked and showed pictures.
The Conference became The First Nationwide Alcoholics
Anonymous History Conference. And it is still rolling.
In fact, Smitty was scheduled to speak there next February.
The high point for me was to sit on an ask it baskit
panel with Smitty and Ray and field all kinds of questions
about early A.A.
want to conclude with these two factual events pertaining
to Sue and Smitty.
when I was in Akron for my first research visit, a reporter
from an Ohio newspaper was interviewing me. She said she
wished she could meet Dr. Bobs daughter. And at that
very moment, Sue and a friend were walking into the lobby
of the Quaker Hilton. I asked Sue to come over. The reporter
asked Sue what she thought about all the history books I
was writing, and Sue said she thought they were just fine.
Then the reporter said, Do AAs still believe that
material about the Bible? Sue replied, Those
who are still around certainly do. And I could have
kissed her because who would better know than the woman
who gave unselfishly of her time at Dr. Bobs Home
and at Founders Day.
as I got to know Smitty and his then wife Betty quite well,
I learned two very positive things. Betty sought me out
when I was in the home in Nocona Texas and Smitty was in
the hospital and discussed Christianity, the Bible, and
prayer with me at great length. She invited the pastor of
their church to come and meet me, and we talked lots about
the Book of James and AA. We then went to the hospital where
Smitty was in bed. And he said, Dick, you sure turned
the preacher on. Hes still talking about the Bible
and AA; and hes in AA. Those were the earlier days,
but I saw a change in the way Smitty spoke of God. His father,
Dr. Bob, had often referred to the Creator as our Heavenly
Father. In fact, thats the last line of Dr.
Bobs personal story on page 181 of the Big Book. And,
by the time I was listening to Smitty or the platform with
Nell Wing, Sue, and a couple of old-timers, Smitty must
have spoken about Yahweh, our Creator, quite a few times.
And each time, Smitty referred to Him as our Heavenly
last words to me on the phone were that he was going to
continue speaking around the country and was booked solid
for months. He said, You know, Im the last of
the Tribe. And who were its members? They were Anne
Smith, Dr. Bob, Sue Smith Windows, Betty SmithSmittys
wife, and Smitty. All these knew the facts about A.A.s
beginnings. Sue and Smitty attended many of the early meetings.
Both loved their mother Anne with deep and abiding love.
Smitty was the only person still alive who was present when
Bill met Dr. Bob at Henrietta Seiberlings Gate House
Smitty was the last of the Tribe of believers that looked
to their Heavenly Father for love, forgiveness, strength,
and guidance from the beginnings of their lives to the end.
Though I knew her for only a short while, I immediately
saw this same faith and love in Mona Sides-Smith who saw
the loving and humorous Robert R. Smith through several
of his last and greatest years. And now we know the facts
article was written by Dick B.
For more historical information, visit Dick B.s web site:
Titles and Articles by Dick B. His site includes: Alcoholics
Anonymous history, Early A.A.'s spiritual roots and successes.
Also, his articles on A.A.'s biblical sources -Results of
10+ years of research on Twelve Step biblical origins.