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General Service Board
his talks at the momentous St. Louis convention, Bill repeatedly
praised A.A.'s General Service Board for its role.
He described the non-alcoholic trustees, in particular,
as "selfless" and "devoted" and
asked, "What would we have ever done without friends
like these?" And well he might, for the formation
of this body of responsible leaders, through a series of
fortuitous circumstances, was critical to the survival of
the precarious early Fellowship.
home to New York following his meeting with Dr. Bob and
the Akronites in the fall of 1937, Bill was armed with a
shaky mandate to raise money to support hospitals, missionaries
and the publication of a book. Bill and others in the New
York group solicited a list of wealthy prospects, but "got
absolutely nowhere." Disappointed and dispirited,
Bill visited his brother-in-law Dr. Leonard Strong, Jr.,
who could always be depended on as adviser and confidant.
The doctor listened quietly while Bill poured out his frustration.
Then, perhaps more to console Bill than for any other reason,
Leonard volunteered that he had once known someone connected
with the Rockefeller philanthropies. He wasn't sure
this man, Willard Richardson, was still alive or would remember
him. But he offered to call and find out.
was indeed alive and remembered Leonard Strong, and was
delighted to hear from him. Moreover, he graciously consented
to see Bill—the very next day. So Bill met Richardson—"an
elderly gentleman who had twinkling eyes set in one of the
finest faces I have ever seen"—in his office on the 56th
floor of the RCA building. Richardson was warmly cordial
and showed deep interest as Bill told his own story and
that of the struggling Fellowship. A few days later, on
November 10, 1937, he wrote Dr. Strong, "I have now had
conferences with four men whose judgement as to the interesting
story of Mr. Wilson I think is good...They thought the matter
very important. They were all inclined to agree with me
that... any organization of this project that tended to
professionalize or institutionalize it would be... quite
undesirable. Some of them thought quite as highly of Mr.
Wilson's experience as a religious one as they did of it
as a liquor one." The letter went on to suggest an early
luncheon with Bill and Dr. Strong, out of which came an
offer by Richardson to set up a meeting in John D. Rockefeller,
Jr.'s private boardroom.
Bill recalled, "He would bring with him Mr. Albert
Scott, chairman of the trustees for Riverside Church, Mr.
Frank Amos, an advertising man and close friend, and Mr.
LeRoy Chiprnan, an associate who looked after some of Mr.
Rockefeller's personal affairs." Bill would
be accompanied by Dr. Strong, Dr. Silkworth, several New
York alcoholics and Dr. Bob with certain Akron members.
At that meeting, after the alcoholics had told their own
stories, Albert Scott declared, "Why, this is first-century
Christianity! He then asked, "What can we do to help?"
went over his agenda of hospital chains, paid workers and
literature, with Dr. Bob, Dr. Silkworth and the others backing
him up. But now Scott asked an important question, "Won't
money spoil this thing?" (Later, when the proposal
reached Mr. Rockefeller, he expressed the same misgivings.)
meeting ended with Frank Amos offering to travel to Akron
to investigate the tiny Fellowship. He was mightily impressed
and his report was enthusiastic, recommending $50,000 to
support the work he had seen. The view of Scott and Richardson
(and ultimately of Rockefeller, too) that "too much
money could spoil the work" prevailed, however. Although
Rockefeller agreed to provide $5,000, he expressed the opinion
that the movement should soon become self-supporting.
something more important than money did come out of the
meetings. Richardson, Amos and Chipman had become sold on
the budding movement and offered their own services. They
continued to meet with Bill, Dr. Strong and the New York
alcoholics to discuss how the movement could be given a
structure. "By the spring of 1938," relates
Bill, "a definite program of action took shape. It
was agreed that we needed a tax-free charitable trust or
foundation." To help form such a body, Frank Amos
secured the help of a young friend, an attorney named John
Bill and his friends had grandiose
plans for the foundation, so it was "chartered to
do everything but lobby for Prohibition," in the words
of Bill. "We were chartered for education; we were
chartered for research; we could do almost anything. And
we [thought] we wanted a lot of money to do a lot of things."
It was also agreed that the Board of Trustees should consist
of alcoholics and nonalcoholics, with the latter in the
majority by a margin of one, to "assure our membership
and other contributors that nonalcoholics would be holding
the purse strings."
led to an impasse, because no one was able to define the
difference between alcoholics and nonalcoholics to the satisfaction
of John Wood's legal mind. He finally suggested that
the simplest solution would be to avoid a legalized charter
and write up a trust agreement. This document was soon completed,
and the Alcoholic Foundation became a reality. Its Board
of Trustees was formally implemented on August 11, 1938,
with five members, as follows:
Willard "Uncle Dick"
Richardson, whom Bill called "one of the finest servants
of God and man I shall ever know. [His] steady faith, wisdom
and spiritual quality were our main anchors to windward
during the squalls that fell on A.A. and its embryo service
center in the first years, and he carried his conviction
and enthusiasm to still others who labored for us so well."
Extremely perceptive and sensitive to the society's
needs, he remained devoted to A.A. from the moment he first
heard Bill's story until his death in 1952. He was
to serve as nonalcoholic trustee from 1938 until 1949, when
he was elected Trustee Emeritus.
Amos, formerly publisher of a newspaper in Ohio, now handling
national advertising in New York and a friend of Richardson.
He served as non-A.A. trustee from 1938 to 1941 and again
from 1949 to 1957, when he too was made Trustee Emeritus.
He died in 1965.
Wood, the lawyer who had drawn up the papers for the Alcoholic
Foundation. He was to serve only one year.
Bob S., as one of the alcoholic trustees.
R., a New York alcoholic. One of the provisions of the trust
agreement stipulated that an alcoholic trustee would have
to resign immediately if he drank. Unfortunately, this happened
within a few months to Bill R.
January, 1939, the size of the Board was increased to seven
members with the addition of Dr. Leonard Strong, Jr. and
another alcoholic, Harry B. Dr. Strong played an extremely
important part in the history of A.A., for he had seen his
brother-in-law Bill through the worst of his drinking and
had gotten him to go to Towns Hospital. Not only did he
provide the link to Willard Richardson and hence to Rockefeller,
but he then served the Board of the Alcoholic Foundation
as its secretary for 16 years. A formal, proper and meticulous
person, he lent stability to the Board during his long and
first, Bill had visions that the existence of a tax-free
foundation with responsible trustees would attract money
from wealthy contributors. But all attempts to raise funds
were unsuccessful. "So the whole business bogged down,"
recalls Bill, "and the treasury of our Foundation
remained empty. It looked like the end of the line."
Bill had begun work on what was to become the book Alcoholics
Anonymous. (See Chap. 12 for full account.) So progress
reports on the book became part of the Board business. At
one of the early meetings, Frank Amos mentioned that one
of his friends was Eugene Exman, religious editor of Harper,
the publishing house. He suggested that Bill show him the
few chapters he had completed and offered to make the appointment.
few days later, Bill met with Exman. After reading the chapters,
Exman asked how long it would take to complete and offered
an advance of $1,500 against earnings when the book would
be published by Harpers. Bill was at first elated, especially
with the prospect of the $1,500. However, with characteristic
vision, he had grave misgivings about the book's being
owned by an outside publisher in view of the thousands of
copies that would surely be needed. He kept his doubts to
himself when he broke the news to Frank Amos, who was delighted.
"In any case," Bill recalls, "it was fine
to know that a firm like Harper wanted the book and that
an editor of Gene's caliber believed [in it.] This
experience was one of the confidence builders that kept
the book project going through thick and thin."
the next Foundation meeting, Bill reported on the Harper
proposal. The Trustees "smiled happily. It was the first
ray of hope in months. They were unanimously in favor of
the deal." Reluctantly, Bill expressed his misgivings. "But
the nonalcoholics on the Board were not impressed.. .The
meeting ended on a dismal note;... no conclusion was reached."
this time, Bill was associated with Hank P., the first alcoholic
in the New York group to stay sober even for a little while,
other than Bill. Hank, a "terrific power-driver,"
urged Bill to ignore the trustees and the Foundation and
take matters into their joint hands. They would form a stock
company, sell shares to the New York members and publish
the book themselves. With little persuasion, Bill agreed
to charge ahead with the plan.
worked up a prospectus, calling their new company Works
Publishing, Inc., and began selling their idea to the New
York members. They contacted the Cornwall Press, one of
the largest book printers. Bill also contacted Dr. Bob,
who consented dubiously to the venture but felt the idea
should be tried out on the Board of Trustees.
Bill "laid this information before the next Trustees'
meeting. I anticipated the reaction would be bad, and it
certainly was. . .Once more the meeting adjourned without
agreement. I knew we would have to go through with the deal
despite all the objections." And they did. (See Chap.
12) The first printing Of the Big Book came off the press
in April, 1939.
year later, at the April, 1940 Board Meeting, the publishing
operation was brought into the fold with a resolution to
turn Works Publishing, Inc. over to the Alcoholic Foundation.
This was accomplished by calling in all outstanding shares
at par value of $25 per share. The Big Book now belonged
to A.A.-as-a-whole. Bill credits LeRoy Chipman with raising
the $8,000 necessary to accomplish this.
Chipman, treasurer of the Rockefeller charities, helped
organize the Alcoholic Foundation, he was not actually a
trustee at this time. He was elected trustee in November,
1943, when the Board was enlarged to nine members. He served
as treasurer until 1952, and is remembered by Dr. Jack Norris
as "a real Victorian gentleman—hard to feel close
to. We had to be careful of our language when Roy was around.
For instance, he thought it was demeaning to call men 'guys.'"Chipman
died in 1964.
giants in A.A. history served as trustees in this period.
Harrison, a sociologist who was director of public affairs
for the Community Service Society of New York, came to the
Foundation in 1941. He was its chairman from then until
1950; and served a second term as trustee (but not as chairman)
from 1953 to 1965. Bill called him "one of A.A.'s
oldest and most valued friends...who saw A.A. through its
frightfully wobbly time of adolescence. What his wise counsel
and steady hand meant to us in that stormy period is quite
B. Smith, a lawyer, came to the Board in 1944 and served
as a trustee until his death in 1970. He succeeded Harrison
as chairman from 1951 to 1956, and as such, chaired the
St. Louis convention. Bill later called him "the architect
of the service structure," providing spiritual as
well as legal direction. And "it was his skill and
devotion that tipped the scales among A.A.'s trustees—nearly
all of whom had grave doubts—in favor of proposing the Conference
in the first place." Bern Smith's eloquent,
wise and perceptive speeches are a precious body of A.A.
literature in themselves.
the memorable early A.A. trustees were Horace C. (1940-48)
and Herbert T. (1940-45). This was the Bert T. who "saved"
the Big Book by mortgaging his tailor shop to provide the
money to get it printed.
these years the Foundation managed the pitifully small funds
of the Fellowship as it began to grow. The minutes of the
first Board meeting reveal the treasury consisted of $2,150—all
that was left of Rockefeller's $5,000 gift. A month
later, Charles Towns of Towns Hospital donated $500. Over
six years later, in January, 1945, the bank balance of the
Foundation was $16,665 - plus $6,070 in the Works Publishing
account. Significantly, however, there were many discussions
of rejecting outside contributions as "conflicting
with established practices and policies," and the
policy of "not soliciting funds" was reaffirmed...In
1946 the Board appropriated $6,000 for the new A.A. newspaper,
the Sixth Tradition, the Foundation decided against the
use of the A.A. name for "commercial undertakings."
In 1946, it was reported to the Board that the Big Book
had been translated into the Spanish language—the first
such translation - by a Mexican immigrant laborer, Ricardo
P., who had found Alcoholics Anonymous in Cleveland. (Ricardo
had married an American girl employed as an interpreter,
who helped mightily in the project!) Minutes from the following
year authorize moving the "headquarters office"
to 415 Lexington Avenue.
the most traumatic and, ultimately, the most significant
preoccupation of the trustees during this time was the running
conflict between Bill arid the Board regarding the role
of the latter; the relationship between the Foundation,
the service office and the co-founders; and the need for
Anonymous was enjoying explosive growth in the second half
of the 1940's. Groups were multiplying, membership
was increasing rapidly, and the program was beginning to
spread overseas. It was boiling with change. Publicity abounded,
from newspaper stories to motion pictures, and anonymity
breaks were beginning to be a problem. Professionals were
making inquiries at the service office arid alcoholism programs
were emerging. The staff and the office were frantically
trying to deal with these developments.
the staff had no link with the trustees or the Foundation.
Sometimes a staff member was invited to attend a Board meeting,
but was not expected to speak, much less to provide input.
According to former archivist Nell Wing, the Board "felt
they were only custodians and shouldn't take action—that
they 'were only there to keep the stove warm'
as Bill put it. They didn't want to get into the wider
arena of what was going on out in the groups. There was
the other hand, Bill felt the Board relied too much on him
and Dr. Bob as its link both to the office and to the groups.
At the St. Louis convention, Bill explained: "To the
Fellowship, its Board of Trustees was scarcely known at
all. . .When death or disability took us old-timers out
of the picture, where would that leave the Trustees and
the Headquarters? A single blunder. . .might cause a failure
of confidence that could not be repaired. Lacking the..
.support of the groups, the whole Headquarters effort might
collapse completely. . . It was evident that here was a
world-wide movement that had no direct access to its own
principal service affairs.. .This situation had been a matter
of great concern to me. .
in 1946, Bill submitted to the trustees a "Code of
Traditions for General Headquarters," and followed
it up with a barrage of memoranda supporting its various
points. These included ideas for fiscal policies, and specifically
the creation of a sound reserve fund; the place of The A.A.
Grapevine in the structure; and staff representation at
the Board and committee meetings, with a voice in policy
decisions. A 1947 memo added the most controversial proposal
of all, that of having a General Service Conference to provide
a linkage between the groups and the trustees as well as
the headquarters office; and to bring the trustees into
regular contact and direct relationship with the society.
Board's reaction was at first defensive and then outright
negative to Bill's suggestions. Most of the trustees
wanted to keep the status quo. They were confident of their
ability to handle whatever situation might arise and saw
no need to change. Bill, spurred into greater urgency by
Dr. Bob's illness and feeling personal frustration,
pressed harder, resulting in hot and bitter debates. As
Nell recounts, "Bill felt they wanted him to be only
a spiritual symbol, confined to a kind of ivory tower where
he couldn't stir things up." The trustees resented
Bill' s over-aggressiveness.
himself confesses, "Typically alcoholic, I...turned.
. .passive resistance into solid opposition. A serious rift
developed between me and the alcoholic members of the Board,
and the situation became worse and worse. They resented
my sledgehammer tactics.. .As the tempest increased, so
did my blistering memorandums. One of them was an amazing
composition...[which] finished with this astonishing sentence:
'When I was in law school, the largest book I studied
was one on trusts. I must say, gentlemen, that it was mostly
a long and melancholy account of the malfeasances and misfeasances
of boards of trustees.' I had written this to. . .
the best friends I had in the world, people who had devoted
themselves to A.A. and to me without stint. Obviously I
was on a dry bender of the worst possible sort.
sizzling memorandum nearly blew the Foundation apart."
The nonalcoholic trustees were "dumbfounded,"
and the old-timer alcoholic trustees hardened their opposition
to the Conference plan. Four of the trustees even submitted
letters of resignation; they were: LeRoy Chipman, Leonard
Harrison, Bernard Smith and Horace C. Bill wrote each of
them a conciliatory letter of apology, and the resignations
were either withdrawn or simply not accepted at the next
fact, the only support on the Board for the Conference was
from Bernard Smith. However, as the dispute wore on into
1950, Chairman Leonard Harrison—even though he did not see
the necessity for a Conference—appointed a trustees'
committee to study the matter with Bernard Smith as Chairman!
Bill characterized this as "a most magnanimous and
generous act on Leonard's part. Bern Smith had "a
remarkable faculty for persuasion and negotiation."
It took him only two meetings to convince the committee
to "give the Conference a try." The full Board
voted to go along. (See Chapter 11 for a fuller history
of the Conference.)
Board was enlarged to 15 members in 1949, including Bill
W. (for only one year, as it turned out) in addition to
Dr. Bob. Also added were Dr. William Silkworth (who died
just two years later) and Fulton Oursler, editor of Liberty
magazine, who had published the first article about the
new movement, "Alcoholics and God," ten years
before. And a third new nonalcoholic was Austin MacCormick,
a leading Penologist, professor of criminology at the University
of California, and already a devoted friend of A.A. Austin
was to serve a first term of two years and then return to
the Board in 1961 for a second term ending in 1976, when
he was made Trustee Emeritus. An active and dedicated Board
member, especially interested in the Grapevine of which
he was a director for many years. Dr. Jack Norris, who was
chairman the Board during almost all of Austin MacCormick's
time as trustee, remembers him not only for his devoted
service but for his great warmth and wit.
its July, 1950, meeting, the Alcoholic Foundation took an
historic step by passing a resolution to no longer accept
money from anyone other than members of A.A.—specifically,
not from "affiliates" (which later became Al-Anon)
nor from "the uninitiated" (i.e., non-A.A.-members).
Also, a limit was placed on the amount of the member's
individual contribution, the formula being up to 1/10th
of 1% of the annual Foundation budget. In 1950, that was
about $100. Dennis Manders points out that if that formula
were used in 1985, the limit on individual contributions
would be nearer $7,000 rather than $500.
October of that year, Frank Gulden, of the Gulden's
mustard family, joined the Board as a nonalcoholic trustees.
He was to serve ten years, faithful in his attendance and
always concerned with A.A.'s welfare but otherwise
without special distinction. John L. "Dr. Jack"
Norris was also invited to become a nonalcoholic trustee.
At that time Associate Medical Director of Eastman Kodak
Company in Rochester, New York, Dr. Jack became president
of the Industrial Medicine Association and chairman of the
Governor's Committee on Alcoholism, and was eventually
recognized worldwide as a medical authority on alcoholism.
A giant among A.A.'s historic figures, he was to serve
as a trustee for a decade, then as chairman of the Board
for 17 years, and finally as Chairman Emeritus, the position
he holds as this book is written. During that time, Dr.
Jack compiled the amazing record of attending every Board
meeting, every General Service Conference and every International
Convention! In his final talk to the Conference on his retirement
in 1977, Bob H., former general manager of the General Service
Office, said of Dr. Jack, "Cherish him, for we will
not see the likes of him again."
on November 16, 1950, co—founder Dr. Bob died, losing
a long bout with cancer.
January, 1951, Bernard Smith took over as chairman, succeeding
Leonard Harrison. That was also Dr. Jack's first Board
meeting, and he recalls being impressed with the size of
A.A.'s service operation. (Over 26,000 copies of the
Big Book were sold that year, and 465,000 pamphlets.) He
remembers the Foundation's meetings as "serious—very
serious—and very long! They talked a lot about literature
and a lot about finances—and, as you might expect, these
were the first two committees of the Board to be formed."
New alcoholic trustees were Earl T., the founder of A.A.
in Chicago, who had also helped Bill reduce the "long
form" of the Twelve Traditions to the shorter wording
that is familiar today; and Henry "Hank" C.,
New York, who was to become immediately involved in overseeing
the headquarters office, first as a volunteer and soon afterward
as its first paid manager. (See Chap. 9)
April, the long-debated First General Service Conference
of A.A. was held at the Commodore Hotel in New York (See
Chap. 11) trustees met with 35 delegates from all parts
of the country with Bern Smith presiding. One of the first
moves of the Conference was to suggest that the Alcoholic
Foundation ought to be renamed the General Service Board
of Alcoholics Anonymous. This suggestion was brought up
repeatedly by the Foundation over the next several years—and
other alternative names considered—and was finally made
official in 1954.
new nonalcoholic trustee elected at Conference time was
Jack Alexander, writer and editor at The Saturday Evening
Post who was responsible for the Post article that changed
A.A. history in March, 1941. He had followed up with a second
article in April, 1950. He was to serve on the Board five
the summer, the Lasker Award was offered to Bill by the
American Public Health Association. Bill refused the award
for himself, but suggested it be given to A.A. as a whole—and
the Lasker Foundation replied favorably. The trustees voted
to accept the award (subject to Conference approval by mail
poll of the delegates), but declined the cash grant of $1,000
that went with it. At the award ceremony in San Francisco
in October, Bern Smith accepted as chairman, giving a memorable
explanation of Alcoholics Anonymous in his talk. Bill added
a brief thank-you.
era saw the development of many of A.A.'s basic pamphlets.
(See Chap. 12) Alcoholic trustee Bob H., an advertising
agency executive, was appointed chairman of the Board's
General Service Committee, which was responsible for the
operation of the headquarters office, and president of Works
Publishing. Bob brought to the Foundation the problem of
finding competent writing talent in the Fellowship, and
in 1952 was authorized to engage Ralph B., a professional
writer and public relations executive, for $500 a month
for 1/3 of his time. Ralph was to perform a variety of important
tasks at the office for the next decade and was present
at most Board meetings.
its October meeting, the headquarters structure was specified.
The Alcoholic Foundation owned both Works Publishing and
the Grapevine. The following year, the name of Works Publishing
was changed to Alcoholics Anonymous Publishing Company,
The Foundation's bank balance
now stood at $156,500. However, the office still operated
at a small deficit and concern was expressed that the reserve
fund should be at least $200,000 and perhaps as much as
$300,000. Bill worried that "we have never taken the
movement through a serious depression." He felt that
one solution would be to ask the groups to forego their
discount on books, but he was also afraid they would not
continue to send contributions if they did not understand
the need for a reserve fund.
Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions was published and
work began on the second edition of the Big Book. Archibald
Roosevelt, partner in an investment counseling firm and
son of President Theodore Roosevelt, was elected a nonalcoholic
trustee. He was attracted, Dr. Jack believed, because of
an alcohol problem in his family. He served as treasurer
until 1970, when he left the Board. A tall, smiling man,
he is recalled as "a fun person."
early 1954, Bill reported to the Board that Yale University
had offered him an honorary degree, but that he had declined,
citing the principles set forth in both the Eleventh and
Twelfth Traditions and declaring that to accept such an
honor would be to set "a perilous precedent."
The title of the "Secretaries" at the headquarters
office was changed to "Senior Staff" and they
were invited to attend Board meetings and to participate
in the discussions.
beginning was made toward a regional structure when an opening
for a Class B trustee occurred. Bill and Cliff W., trustee
from Southern California, outlined a plan which divided
the U.S. into five regions—Northwest, Southwest, Midwest,
Northeast and Southeast—from which Class B candidates should
be picked in rotation from states (i.e., areas) according
to their A.A. population. Canada should always be represented.
The Board and the office were planning by now for the St.
Louis convention. Throughout the late forties and the fifties,
the Board was dealing with matters relating to the spread
of the movement overseas (See Chaps. 7 & 8) and translation
of the Big Book into other languages. It was also receiving
reports of progress on the second edition, to be introduced
at the St. Louis convention.
Smith was urging all possible speed in completing the second
edition because he was worried about possibly inadequate
copyright coverage of the first edition. Bill was less concerned
and in less of a hurry. The following year, when the second
edition had been published, the Board discussed how to dispose
of the remaining copies of the first edition. Among the
ideas proposed were to give them away to prisons, hospitals
and A.A. offices abroad; offer them through jobbers to second-hand
bookstores; or store them away for a year and then have
a "fire sale." Bern Smith suggested that some
copies be saved for posterity, for "they will be valuable
in 1955 we find the first discussion of a ratio change on
the Board—the issue which was to be pursued doggedly by
Bill, debated endlessly by the trustees, and wrangled over
by the delegates to ten General Service Conferences before
it was finally resolved in 1966. In a 1958 letter to Harrison
Trice (see below), he gave the following reasons he believed
it was necessary to have a majority of alcoholic trustees:
-The increased press of work with which we have no business
to saddle the nonalcoholic members;
-Proper determination of A.A. policy and its administration
which the nonalcoholics have disclaimed ability to handle;
-Need for wider representation geographically of alcoholic
-It is unsound psychologically for a movement of our present
size and maturity to take a childish and fearful view that
a majority of alcoholics cannot be trusted to sit on our
most important board.
first two points were the basis of Board discussions in
1955, and in an effort to shift some of the work from the
nonalcoholic trustees and deal with policy matters before
they reached the Board, a General Policy Committee was formed.
Its members included Class B trustees, senior staff members
and other alcoholic appointees. In addition, the Board discussed
various ways a trustee ratio change might be effected, and
voted to send these to the delegates in preparation for
the next conference.
Two actions taken by the Board to
increase the authority of the Nominating Committee are interesting
from an historical viewpoint. They voted that candidates
being considered for corporate directors of the publishing
operation or the Grapevine should also be submitted to the
Nominating Committee. Similarly, candidates for the General
Service Staff should first be considered by the incumbent
staff, then by the publishing Board, and finally approved
by the Nominating Committee. However, these actions were
not fully implemented until nearly thirty years later. (See
Ad Hoc Comm., 1983, below)
The era from 1955 to 1960 was one
of exciting growth and maturing for Alcoholics Anonymous,
with new developments on every front. In addition to the
Big Book and The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Alcoholics
Anonymous Comes of Age joined the hardcover books in 1957,
and new pamphlets were rapidly being added. A.A. was spreading
to other continents and other countries at a dizzying rate,
literature was being translated and published in other languages,
and in some overseas locations service boards and offices
were being formed. A.A. appeared frequently in the press,
on television and in motion pictures—and anonymity breaks
had to be dealt with. A.A. was increasingly recognized by
professional people as alcoholism received more attention,
and in 1956 the American Medical Association recognized
alcoholism as a disease. A.A. conventions and get-togethers
were becoming popular – not only in the U.S., but
in other countries as well. The General Service Board and
its Committees were dealing with these matters at the Board's
quarterly meetings which sometimes went far into the night.
(And they are chronicled in the appropriate chapters elsewhere
in this history.)
notable nonalcoholic trustees joined the Board in 1957.
Harrison Trice, Ph.D., a professor in the school of Industrial
and Labor Relations at Cornell University, served for 12
years. He was an active Board member, entering into discussions
with enthusiasm. "often," says Dr. Jack, "Harry
was a burr under my saddle. He was opinionated and I recall
several occasions when he would bring up a piece of business
that had already been decided, as if it was a new idea of
his." And Dr. Harry Tiebout served 11 years, until
his death in April, 1966. Bill called him, "Our first
friend in psychiatry, who very early began to use A.A. in
his own practice, and whose good humor, humility, penetrating
insight and courage have meant much to us all." Not
only did Tiebout endorse A.A. personally, he helped get
Bill invited to read papers about A.A. first at the Medical
Society of New York and later at the American Psychiatric
Association, "thus hastening the acceptance of the
then little-known A.A. by physicians."
a more personal level, Dr. Tiebout had given the A.A. co-founder
psychotherapeutic help in the mid-1940s and later entered
into a lengthy and heated correspondence with him debating,
the manifestations of maturity and immaturity in the Fellowship
itself. It was Dr. Tiebout's contention that Bill's
repeated protestations as to the "maturity"
and "coming of age" of A.A. were themselves
an indication of immaturity. From this base of belief, Tiebout
was opposed to both the Conference plan and, later, the
proposed ratio change (though, as a trustee, he eventually
voted for it). In the minds of many, Dr. Tiebout's
greatest contribution to A.A. were his classic papers: "Alcoholics
Anonymous - An Experiment of Nature", "The Act
of Surrender in the Therapeutic Process", and "Conversion
as a Psychological Phenomenon."
in 1957, the size of the Board was increased to 15 members
- eight nonalcoholic and seven alcoholic. At the instigation
of one of the latter, a review of Bill's royalty arrangement
on the books he had written was undertaken. (Now devoting
full time to Alcoholics Anonymous, he had no other income.)
The process dragged on over two years, but a final agreement
was drawn up and approved by the Conference providing royalties
on the three existing "for the life of the copyrights"
and on any others he might write in the future.
in general continued to be a constant concern. The service
office operated at a deficit or, with the help of publishing
income, with a marginal profit. Still, the Reserve Fund
was growing modestly, to the point that an Investment Subcommittee
of the Finance and Budgetary Committee was formed to insure
it was properly handled. In one discussion, Archie Roosevelt
complained of the difficulty of budgeting in A.A. because
of the uncertainty of group contributions on the income
side and the uncertainty of the Conference taking actions
that might require expenditures on the expense side. (The
same difficulty was being lamented in the mid-1980s.) A
way to augment group contributions with personal contributions
was introduced; namely, the "Birlthday Plan"
in which a member was encouraged to donate annually a dollar
for each year of his sobriety, to express his gratitude
as well as to help carry the message to others worldwide.
The idea for the Birthday Plan had
come out of Oklahoma (See Chap. 5 for full account) through
its delegate to the General Service Conference. So much
attention was focused on finances that E.D. "Icky"
S., a class B trustee, placed a written statement in the
record deploring that after a delegate returns from the
Conference, he is thought of only in terms of MONEY and
PROMOTION (sic). "Take him out of the position of
Fund Raiser!" asked Icky of the Board.
in this period, Bill reported to the Board he was gathering
"lots of historic recordings of old timers"
and "getting the files in shape for the future, so
that the story of A.A. cannot be garbled"—the beginnings
of the Archives! And the office began publishing the Exchange
Bulletin, later renamed 4-5-9. The A.A. publishing Board
was authorized to act with regard to foreign editions of
the Big Book—a responsibility which had occupied considerable
time at General Service Board meetings.
Board wrestled with many policy decisions. For example,
"Drug addict groups are not to be registered or listed
in the Directory." (Bill had also written an article
on "Problems Other Than Alcohol" in the Grapevine
later to be printed as a pamphlet.) For another example,
how to respond to requests to add delegates to the Conference.
Under considerable pressure based on A.A. population, an
additional delegate was approved for Southern California;
however, it was decided any expansion of the Conference
should be the prerogative of the Conference Admissions Committee,
and should be approached with extreme caution. Considerable
thought was given by Bern Smith and others to the relationship
between the trustees and the Conference. Can the trustees
request postponement of final action on a matter they haven't
had a chance to consider separately? Should Board members
voice their opinions on the Conference floor? Etc. (This
relationship was later to dealt with in The Twelve Concepts
for World Service. Another policy statement articulated
the principle of "cooperation but not affiliation"
with alcoholism agencies and treatment centers. The Board
even raised the question as to the possibility of hiring
a male staff member, and decided to leave it up to the General
Service Committee. They also suggested that preference should
be given to an applicant "out of the New York area."
pulling and hauling over the trustee ratio change continued
throughout this period. The Conference, which was proving
to be unexpectedly conservative, kept turning down Bill's
proposal or tabling it to be considered by the next Conference.
At the January 1958 meeting of the Board, a "feeler"
was put out by Class B trustee Herb M., who was to become
General Manager of the service office two years later. After
discussing the case for the ratio change, he moved, "This
Board feels it could function with a ratio of more A.A.'s
than nonalcoholics and will take such action if and when
the Conference requests." The vote of those present
was three in favor, three opposed, and three abstaining.
Later that same year, Dr. Jack Norris drafted a full-page,
single-space summary of the pros and cons of the question,
neatly balanced in two columns, which the Board voted to
send to the groups. This prompted Harrison Trice to declare
"the trustee ratio issue has been blown out of all
proportion and has created a furor among the groups that
is distracting us from our primary purpose." To which
John L., a Class B trustee from Pennsylvania, replied that
the issue was "close to the heart of all A.A. members."
measure of the recognition enjoyed by Alcoholics Anonymous
by this time—and of the attention it was receiving in the
press - was the offer by TIME magazine to feature Bill Wilson
on its cover. This was an honor usually reserved for heads
of state, war heroes and similar famous faces. Bill first
received a letter from Milton Alexander, an editor at TIME
and brother of Jack Alexander, inviting him to lunch at
the editorial offices so they could learn more about A.A.
Bill went with Herb M., chairman of the trustees'
Public Information Committee, who remembers what transpired.
They met with Alexander and Henry Grunwald, editor of TIME,
who talked briefly about how well they thought of A.A. and
said they wanted to do a story and furthermore wanted to
make it a cover story, obviously confident Bill would be
thrilled. "We hit it head on," recalls Herb.
"Bill did most of the talking." Bill explained
the anonymity Tradition and why he couldn't have his
picture appear. "It certainly must have been a horrible
temptation to Bill," says Herb, "because he
wasn't lacking in ego! And it wasn't easy to
un-sell them. They used all the arguments: 'You're
not silent, are you? You don't go around wearing a
mask.' They even offered to show only the back of
his head on the cover." Bill and Herb suggested other
art themes as cover possibilities, but in the end the whole
offer fell through. Herb says, "When he came out,
Bill was feeling pretty good about it—proud that he had
seen a Tradition at work, a real test and he had come through
it with no hesitation on his part."
was to explain later, "For all I know, a piece of
this sort could have brought A.A. a thousand members—possibly
a lot more. Therefore, when I turned that article down,
I denied recovery to an awful lot of alcoholics. But I went
well over on the conservative side because.. . the piece
would have created a clear image of me as a person. This
would have created for the future, I am sure, a temptation
in our power-driving people to get like pieces—presently
with full names and pictures. . .A dangerous precedent."
July, 1959, the name of A.A. Publishing was changed to Alcoholics
Anonymous World Services, Inc. A.A.W.S. was now responsible
for the publishing function and for the operation of the
General Service Office, as the "headquarters"
was now known.
the last three years of the decade, the Board was almost
continuously involved with planning A.A.'s 25th Anniversary
celebration, centering around the forthcoming Convention
in Long Beach, California. In this respect, the 1960 Convention
was different from those that had preceded it. The 1945
and 1950 Conventions in Cleveland and even the 1955 Convention
in St.Louis were all the responsibility of local A.A.'s
who made the initial decision to have the gatherings, made
the meeting arrangements, handled the registration and put
on the program. This time, however, the Board decided it
would take over. The Southern California A.A.'s issued
the invitation and helped with the local arrangements, but
the program, the press relations and the finances were the
responsibility of the Board - with the exception of a spectacular
evening of entertainment featuring Hollywood stars, which
was organized and staged by the California A.A.'s.
(See Chap. 21)
The actual work prior to the Convention
was delegated largely to Hank G., general manager of the
office, and Hazel H., Convention secretary. They made one
or two advance trips to Long Beach, working with local A.A.'s
mostly by phone and letter, to save the cost of travel;
and then, on the last trip west to set up the Convention,
Hank suffered a ruptured appendix and was in intensive care
until the Convention was over. The Board called on Allan
B., a Class B trustee from Stamford, Connecticut, and executive
vice president of the National Better Business Bureau, to
take over in the emergency. Much of the load also fell on
Dennis Manders and Hazel R. "The trouble was, all
the contacts and all the details were in Hank's head,"
recalls Dennis. "So everything was dumped into Allan's
lap and we were having meetings until two, three, four o'clock
in the morning trying to piece things together. Allan did
a tremendous job."
that year, Hank C., having recovered from his illness, was
invited to Great Britain to tour the new General Service
Office for the U.K., the London Intergroup and other service
centers. He flew to England in October, and on the 26th
of that month he died in a plane crash. Five days later,
the Board expressed its shock and regret in a resolution
prepared by Bern Smith. Herb M. was asked to take over as
manager of the General Service Office at least until the
next meeting of the Board three months hence.
decade of the sixties for A.A. was a time of reaching out
to the still-suffering alcoholic in different segments of
the public through Public Information activities and through
improved relations with the professional community. It was
a time of concern over the misunderstandings about A.A.
by the outside world and the first surveys to learn more
about ourselves. It was a time of helping and guiding service
structures in overseas countries, and a time of concern
for hard-to-reach alcoholics and minority groups here at
home. It was a time when A.A. had to deal with caustic criticism
in the public press.
The Board was in the forefront of
these and other challenges—and triumphs—during an eventful
1961, Dr. Jack Norris was elected Chairman of the Generals
Service Board - the position he was to occupy until 1978.
Austin MacCormick returned to the Board for a second term,
which ended in 1976. The remaining Class A's were
Leonard Harrison, Bern Smith, Archie Roosevelt, Harry Tiebout,
Harrison Trice and Ivan Underwood. Underwood, a vice - president
of Republic Steel Co., traveled the world on business and
was most helpful in establishing communications with A.A.
in other countries, particularly in literature matters.
He served as trustee from 1956 to 1965, and even after he
retired, maintained a lively interest in A.A. affairs.
M. resigned as trustee to accept the managership of the
General Service Office on a permanent basis. The remaining
Class B's were legendary. The "in - town"
trustees were Allan B.; Sumner C., past president of the
New York Intergroup; and Al S., jack-of¬-all-work for
both the Grapevine and G.S.0, author of the Responsibility
Declaration. The "area trustees", as they were
then called, were founding fathers of A.A.: Dave B. from
Quebec; Pat C. from Minnesota; and Tom S. from Florida,
who later was the force behind establishing the A.A. Archives.
T., ever since he had carried the message to Bill in 1934,
had difficulty staying sober. Between relatively short intervals
of sobriety, he had long drinking episodes, sometimes showing
up at the office drunk, looking for money from Bill. Through
the years, Bill remained unswervingly loyal, always concerned
over Ebby's welfare, always referring to him as his
sponsor, supporting him financially. Now, to ensure that
Ebby would be cared for in case anything happened to himself,
Bill asked the Board to approve a $100 per month stipend
for his friend. They voted to do so, increasing it to $200
per month the following year, which Ebby received for the
rest of his life.
French was the first language of the Province of Quebec,
in Canada, a French Literature Committee was formed there
to translate and publish the Big Book and other A.A. literature.
As it was, in effect, a publishing subsidiary of A.A. World
Services, Inc. - and yet was more nearly a part of the general
service structure in Quebec—the Board had to negotiate a
working arrangement agreeable to all parties. This task
began in 1961 with a basic document setting forth the relationship
but problems recurred over the next fifteen years –
even as literature in French continued to be produced and
A.A. membership exploded among French-speaking Canadians.
Board direction, through its Public Information Committee,
the first public service spots about Alcoholics Anonymous
were produced for radio and television. A.A. members, filmed
in shadow to protect their anonymity, told one-minute stories
of their experiences; and in a final spot, Dr. Jack appeared
full-face to tell about the program. He likes to tell of
an associate at Eastman Kodak stopping him and saying, "Saw
you on, TV last night, Jack. You're the only one who
wouldn't admit it!" Also, professional exhibits
were prepared and sent to conventions of professionals in
various parts of the country, where they were manned by
local A.A. volunteers.
October of 1961, the Board received from Bill his Twelve
Concepts for World Service. Except for some changes to keep
the debate on the proposed ratio change from being carried
into this book, the trustees approved the book to be submitted
to the General Service Conference. And Bern Smith was given
the assignment of drafting a new royalty agreement with
Bill, to be sure Lois would be provided for in the event
of his death.
the policy decisions coming from the Board were to study
the formation of a separate Professional Relations Committee;
and to help overseas A.A. financially in translating and
publishing literature, by means of a revolving fund to be
reimbursed through the sale of the literature.
General Service Board was enlarged in 1962 to provide for
more regional representation. It was enlarged from 15, 8
Class A's and 7 Class B's; to 19, 10 Class A's
and 9 Class B's. Within the Class B's, 4 continued
to be General Service Trustees from the New York area, but
regional trustees were increased from 3 to 5.
In addition to prominent and favorable
magazine articles and television programs on A.A., two events
happened in 1962, which gave the Fellowship an even larger
boost. Like this country's Jack Alexander years before,
a French journalist named Joseph Kessel heard of Alcoholics
Anonymous and spent several months visiting A.A. in America.
This resulted in a series of articles the Paris newspaper,
France Soir, and afterward in a book. And like Alexander's
Saturday Evening Post article, Kessel's articles and
book gave A.A. a push not only in France, but, through translations,
in Germany and elsewhere throughout Europe. His book was
translated into English under the title The Road Back and
was popular in the U.S. too. The other publicity event was
Days of Wine and Roses, which had been an extremely successful
"Playhouse 90" TV drama back in 1958. Now, with
help and Consultation from A.A., it was made into an even
more successful motion picture, starring Jack Lemmon and
Lee Remick as an alcoholic couple. It portrayed A.A. as
should A.A.'s relationship be to the Calix Society?
That was the question brought to the Board at this time.
Calix was an organization of Roman Catholic recovered alcoholics
who practiced the A.A. program, but wished to remain separate
within their own church. Bill, always permissive, favored
cooperation with Calix. Dr. Tiebout agreed. Harrison Trice,
supported by several others, was opposed to any relationship
at all. Bill and the moderates won out, leading to some
ambivalence and confusion that has persisted ever since.
February, 1963, an article by Arthur Cain, entitled "Alcoholics
Anonymous—Cult or Cure?," appeared in Harpers magazine.
In it, the author, a psychologist, sharply flayed A.A. as
being "one of America's most fanatical religious
cults " In scathing terms, he accused it of being
"pompous", "intolerant", "dogmatic"
and "anti-science," among other things. The
immediate reaction of many within the Fellowship was indignation,
anger and a desire for vengeance. When the swelling demand
reached New York for Bill and the Board "do something",
Bill recommended they do nothing. He counseled them that
the best response to criticism was no response at all. Later,
in a Grapevine article explaining his position, Bill said
"our critics can be our friends" by forcing
us to take a look at our faults. (The Board added a Workshop
to the next Conference, to "take the Fellowship's
inventory.) The following year, another highly critical
article took aim at the service office and the Board—this
time by Jerome E., a former editor of the Grapevine, who
had become disenchanted and embittered. In keeping with
the Tenth Tradition—"the A.A. name ought never be
drawn into public controversy"—Bill and the Board
again remained calm and made no response. Time has proved
the wisdom of this policy. Neither article had any apparent
effect on the continued growth and health of Alcoholics
Anonymous. The Fellowship is several times larger today
than it was in 1963 and 1964, while the names of Arthur
Cain and Jerome E. have long since faded into oblivion.
milestone of sorts was reached in July, 1963, when the A.A.
Grapevine repaid to the General Fund a loan of $11,000 which
it had received ten years before.
Two important trustees' committees
were established. The Public Information Committee was made
a full standing committee instead of a subcommittee of the
Policy Committee, as it had been previously. This was in
part a reflection of Bill's lessening involvement
at the office, where he had personally handled A.A.'s
relations with the press for 25 years. Also, an International
Committee was formed to help the Board deal with special
problems and needs of A.A.'s abroad.
At two successive Board meetings,
discussions took place as to what rotation plan would be
appropriate for Class A trustees. The question was referred
to the 1964 Conference, which came back with its own suggestion.
And in July of that year, a rotation plan was approved.
It specified that present Class A trustees would not be
affected, but that new nonalcoholic trustees would serve
maximum of three three - year terms – with an exception
made to enable the Chairman to serve a maximum of six years
additional, from the time he was elected.
Finance Committee set the limit of the Reserve Fund at one
year's operating expenses, or $450,000, whichever
was arrived at first. A pension plan for G.S.O. and Grapevine
employees was also approved, and severance pay for same
was set at four weeks' salary.
name of Bob H. was approved by the Nominating Committee
as a director of A.A.W.S.
to reports of the regional trustees, affirmed by the staff,
conventions, conferences, roundups and get-togethers were
growing around the country—and even abroad—by leaps and
bounds. Founders' Day in Akron drew over 2,000 and
big crowds were reported in California, the Northwest and
the Southeast. Big meetings were being held by doctors in
A.A. and by young people. (See Chap. 19). And the International
Committee was reporting activities in every corner of the
globe: literature distribution centers in Columbia, S.A.,
and in El Salvador and other Central American countries;
a General Service Board in England; advice on structure
needed in West Germany; and plans for literature distribution
in Australia, New Zealand and India.
freshman Class A trustees joined the Board in 1965. Dr.
Travis Dancey, a psychiatrist from Montreal, was the first
nonalcoholic trustee from Canada. A long-time friend of
A.A., he had tried to help Dave B. without success. After
Dave found A.A. through writing the New York service office,
Dancey worked with him as Dave spread the A.A. message in
Quebec. He was to serve as trustee until 1974. Dr. Vincent
Dole, a medical researcher at Rockefeller University, developed
the Methadone treatment for heroin addiction. He served
with distinction until 1976, and is perhaps remembered best
for his brilliant and often quoted articulation of the importance
of A.A.'s singleness of purpose. Robert W.P. Morse,
executive vice-president and treasurer of the Dime Savings
Bank in New York, was elected a trustee and treasurer of
the General Service Board, succeeding Archie Roosevelt on
the latter's retirement. The name of Bayard P. is
also noted by the Nominating Committee as a new director
on the A.A.W.S. Board.
continued among the trustees and delegates on the proposed
ratio-change, but the ultimate resolution crept a little
closer as the Board suggested that a ratio of 2\3 alcoholics
and 1\3 nonalcoholics be maintained, and the Conference
agreed to study the suggestion with a view to voting on
it the next year. By then, recalls Dr. Jack, "we had
spent an awful lot of time and energy on that. Bill would
sit on the couch outside the Conference meeting room and
would collar anyone who would listen and try to persuade
them. Finally I said to him, 'They're not reacting
to your ideas—they're reacting to your method. Let
me handle it. ' . . . Then, all I did at the [Conference]
meeting was to say that the alcoholic trustees have come
in from the movement. They've been great people; they've
been very solid. There's never been an action on the
Board where there's been a division between the A.A.'s and the non-A.A.'s 's. . I said, 'Give
it a try. If it doesn't work, we can change it.'
And it was that easy." The Conference took a vote
and at its meeting immediately following the conference,
the Board unanimously accepted the Advisory Action of the
Conference "that the Board be increased to 21, seven
nonalcoholic and 14 alcoholic."
was a victory for Bill. But he shared his satisfaction with
the person who had been especially helpful to him behind
thee scenes - Herb M. In a letter to Herb dated November
11, 1964, he said, "You cannot imagine how happy and
grateful I am respecting the outcome of the last Trustees
meeting when the decision was taken that A.A. should try
to go on its own at the level of the Board...Without your
good offices, your skill and your good will, nothing might
have been accomplished.. .I know that A.A. of the future
is going to be very greatly in debt to you for this contribution...during
a difficult time in our pilgrim's progress.'"
new structure of the Board called for one trustee from each
of six U.S. regions and two Canadian regions; plus a Trustees-at-Large
from each of the countries. The four General Service Trustees
from the New York area (two each from the A.A.W.S. and Grapevine
corporate boards) were not affected. Nor were the seven
nonalcoholic trustees, as the Conference had affirmed the
Board's rotation plan for them, including no change
in the present Class A's. But how to make the new
Board structure work seemed like an insoluble puzzle. Given
that the terms of the sitting regional trustees would not
be touched, how could their replacements plus the additional
Class B's be phased in? It was important that as few
trustees as possible rotate out and be replaced in any given
year, so as to provide for maximum continuity. Again the
job was given to Herb M., who recalls, "It looked
impossible. I never worked on anything harder than that
fool chart!" He accomplished it by staggering regional
trustees' terms—some serving three years, some two,
and one only one year - so that by 1974 everyone would be
back to the full four-year term with a minimum of disruption
to the Board. Not only working out the chart but then persuading
the Fellowship to abide by it was considered an act of genius.
about this time, Bill entered into a consuming personal
enthusiasm which almost immediately thrust him into a confrontational
position with the General Service Board—sometimes referred
to as "the great niacin flap." Earlier, Bill
had met two English psychiatrists working with alcoholics
and schizophrenics in Canada; their names were Dr. Humphry
Osrnond and Dr. Abram Hoffer. Now he learned that they believed
they were having some success in treating alcoholics by
giving them niacin, which is vitamin B-3. It seemed to lessen
the effects of alcohol withdrawal. Bill apparently leaped
to the conclusion that his doctor friends had found the
answer to the "allergy" Dr. Silkworth had talked
about; i.e., the physical component of alcoholism. Bill
explained that the "allergy" was really a disturbance
in the alcoholic's blood chemistry; specifically,
low blood sugar. Osmond and Hoffer thought that niacin could
prevent this drop in blood sugar.
Bill grew wildly enthusiastic over
this idea. He read the literature, pored over the studies
and took large doses of vitarnin B-3 himself. He professed
getting great benefit from it. He then took it upon himself
to bring the work to the attention of the medical profession
and to crusade among his thousands of admirers and followers
in A.A. He threw his organizing skills and his energy into
this new project with the zeal he had brought to the infant
A.A. program 30 years earlier.
R., a regional trustee from Massachusetts, tells about being
cornered by Bill on the Sunday evening of a Board weekend
in October, 1967. Bill talked about B-3 all through their
dinner together. "He invited me up to his room afterward,"
says Frank, and is promoting me. I'm just listening,
very patient. He's got medical papers and he goes
clear back to ancient times to say when they invented the
wheel, they didn't keep it to themselves. And when
we found a way to stay sober, we didn't keep it to
ourselves. And we shouldn't keep this new thing to
Bill's promotion of his new enthusiasm through A.A.
members soon began to backfire. Niacin advocates began talking
about it at A.A. meetings, and those opposed to it were
using the meetings as forums for arguments. By the time
the controversy reached the Board, the question was not
so much the efficacy of niacin as what to do about Bill's
behavior. Many felt, with justification, that Bill was using
his privileged position as A.A.'s co-founder to promote
a personal view. (Others insisted he was sincerely trying
to help his fellow alcoholics. Bayard P. was one of these,
who at Bill's urging began taking large doses of B-3
in the mid-'60s and has continued ever since, with
beneficial results.) Most agreed that Bill was clearly violating
his own Sixth Tradition, that A.A. ought never endorse or
lend the A.A. name to any outside enterprise; and the Tenth
Tradition, that A.A.'s name ought never be drawn into
trustees realized they could not prevent Bill from personally
endorsing and promoting niacin; but they felt they had to
insist that he not use his position as A.A.'s co-founder
nor mix this new project up with A.A. Dr. Jack, as chairman,
had the task of trying to explain the Board's position
to Bill. "When I knew I was right," says Dr.
Jack, "I didn't have any trouble talking to
him like a Dutch uncle."
The Board adopted a resolution requiring
that Bill keep his identification with B-3 apart from G.S.O.
operations and the A.A. program; that all inquiries about
B-3 coming to the office be told this is not an A.A. matter
and referred to an office in Pleasantville N.Y.; and that
Bill not use G.S.O. stationary in B 3 correspondence nor
use any G.S.O employee (i.e., his secretary, Nell Wing)
to help. The 1967 Conference also approved this Resolution.
This pretty much ended the "great niacin flap,"
but it did not end Bill's enthusiasm for it which
continued until his death.
International Convention which took place in Toronto, Canada,
in July, 1965, was again an important activity of the Board.
The first such event held in Canada, it involved arrangements
and liaison with A.A.'s in that country, handled largely
by Herb M. An impressive crowd of about 9,000 attended,
and 30 countries were represented. Ralph B. handled the
press room. Dr. Jack seemed to be everywhere at once, at
press conferences, shepherding Bill and Lois, speaking,
and chairing big meetings of the Convention—a responsibility
which he shared with Bernard Smith. Nearly all the trustees
- along with the staff—took part in the panel meetings (at
which 12 distinguished nonalcoholic guests spoke), the 12
workshops and 12 alkathons that comprised the program. (For
full account, see Chap. 21)
of the significant steps taken by the Board during the late
'60s was to undertake research of two kinds: first,
to discover what the general public thought about A.A. and
A.A. members; and second, to survey the Fellowship to learn
about ourselves - what was our breakdown by age and gender
and occupation, how long had we been sober, what brought
us to A.A., how often do we attend meetings, and other data
not previously known. This research, done through the trustees'
Public Information Committee, was spearheaded by Bayard
P., administrative vice-president of one of the largest
New York advertising agencies. Brilliant and forceful, Bayard
became a general service trustee in 1968, but as a director
of the A.A.W.S. Board serving on the P.I. Committee for
two years previously, he had exerted considerable influence.
survey of the general public was done by telephone, using
the agency's WATS lines at night. Volunteers, trained
by professional researchers, made random calls across the
country, asking a predetermined set of questions. This yielded
a scientific sample accurate to plus-or-minus 5%. By this
method, it was found that although the majority of the people
had a generally good opinion of A.A., they had negative
feelings about A.A. members, characterizing them as being
"neurotic," "failures," "weak
willed," etc. However, the majority of the people
did not know any A.A. members. It was found that only about
25% knew someone in A.A., but these people attributed positive
characteristics to them.
second phase of the research, the survey of the Fellowship
itself, was done by having the delegates to the Conference
distribute a quantity of printed questionnaires to about
5% of the groups in their areas, to be answered voluntarily
and anonymously. This survey, conducted in l968, elicited
a 90% response, with a total of over 11,000 replies! A delegate,
Prof. Jack M., who just happened to be director of the computer
center at Western Michigan University, volunteered to write
a computer program and analyze the questionnaires. (Jack
M. was elected a regional trustee in 1971, and continued
to analyze the succeeding triennial survey questionnaires
until his retirement from the university in 1980.)
the valuable data revealed by the survey were the following:
One in four members was female. In age, 57% of the members
were between 30 and 49; 30% between 50 and 64; and the remainder
either under 30 or over 65. At a typical meeting, 38% of
those present had less than a year's sobriety; 34%
were sober 1 to 5 years; 13%, 6 to 10 years; and the rest,
longer. But most significant to Bayard was the information
on what had influenced the member most in bringing him or
her to A.A. About 15% credited newspapers, magazines, radio
or TV; another 12% said doctors; smaller percentages were
accounted for by the clergy, social workers, hospitals;
but by far the largest number—55%—had been influenced most
by another A.A. member.
concluded Bayard, "if our largest single means of
entry (an A.A. member) was available to only 25% of the
public (as revealed by the telephone research), that indicated
that we should do something to make A.A. members more visible
without breaking their anonymity. That brought us to the
next step, which was to prepare a 'white paper'
citing these findings and saying we had an obligation to
be un-anonymous at the private level—to doctors, to lawyers,
to ministers, to personal friends, to anyone who could be
a multiplier in terms of being exposed to people who might
need A.A." This paper, brought through the P.I Committee,
was approved by the General Service Board and then by the
Although the telephone survey of
the general public's opinion of A.A. has not been
repeated, the membership surveys have been repeated at three-year
intervals ever since 1968. The results have been reported
in detail by Dr. Jack Norris at three professional conferences,
and the results have always been announced through a press
release. A popular, illustrated summary of the findings
are published each time in a leaflet entitled The A.A. Member.
Succeeding surveys have proved particularly valuable in
spotting trends, such as: By 1983, females accounted for
better than one in three A.A. members. Young people made
up nearly a fifth of the membership. Treatment centers had
become a significant source of members, though the largest
single influence was still another A.A. member.
In a single week at the end of March
and beginning of April, 1966, A.A. lost three historic figures:
Ebby T., who died sober living at a rehab outside Albany,
N.Y.; "the incomparable Sister Ignatia" (as
Bill called her), who - first with Dr. Bob in Akron and
later at a hospital in Cleveland—helped more than 10,000
drunks, and Dr. Harry Tiebout.
same year, Bob H. was elected a General Service Trustee.
The following year, he resigned in order to take over as
General Manager of G.S.O. the next year, replacing Herb.
M., who resigned. Also in 1968, Milton Maxwell, Ph.D., a
sociologist, director of the Summer School on Alcoholism
at Rutgers University and long time friend of A.A., was
elected to the corporate board of the Grapevine. And from
the Grapevine board Bob P. was elected a General Service
Trustee and a director on the A.A.W.S. board as well. Because
of continuing friction between the Grapevine and G S 0,
the General Service Board had decided to see if the situation
would be improved by having one trustee serve on both corporate
boards at the same time However, when Bob P rotated off
four years later, the experiment was dropped.
late '60s were marked by the Board's turning
its attention to ways to carry the A.A. message more effectively
to hard-to-reach alcoholics among minorities and handicapped.
Efforts were made to encourage blacks to attend white A.A.
meetings or to start groups of their own. More literature
was translated and published in the Spanish language for
Hispanics in the U.S. To reach less educated alcoholics,
two pamphlets were developed in comic-book style, one aimed
at males, the other at females. The Big Book was offered
in braille to reach the blind, and ways were explored to
help the hearing-impaired.
Bill's health began to fail from emphysema, the Board
approved the making of a 16mm
film, "Bill's Own Story." Shot at Bill
and Lois's home, Stepping Stones, it was strictly
a home - movie in quality; and to conform to the anonymity
Tradition, its showing was limited by Conference action
to within A.A. only. It was followed up two years later
with "Bill Discusses the Twelve Traditions"
in the same style and with the same restrictions. Although
both films run long and are of poor quality with sound tracks
that are hard to hear, they have been a staple at A.A. conventions,
conferences and other get-togethers and have been shown
thousands of times in the decades since they were made.
A collection of Bill's thoughts and words on a wide
variety of subjects was begun, to be published as a book,
"The A.A. Way of Life" (later retitled, "As
Bill Sees It.") Bill selected excerpts from the Big
Book, The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Grapevine
articles and letters, with the help of Janet G. in the Grapevine
usefulness of the Policy Committee began to be questioned.
It had evolved over the years into a "town-meeting"
type of gathering which met on Sunday afternoon of each
Board weekend and reviewed all the Board business including
all other committee reports in detail—thus effectively duplicating
the agenda of the Board meeting itself which followed either
on Sunday evening or, later, on Monday morning.
new committees were formed in 1970: the Professional Relations
Committee, spun-off from the Public Information Committee,
reflecting the greatly increased workload in this area,
and a Long-Range Planning Committee.
the Board had preliminary discussions in 1968 of introducing
electronic data processing (EDP) at G.S.O., and even appropriated
$20,000 to be available to the A.A.W.S. Board to explore
the possibility. However, nine years were to pass before
a computer was actually in operation. (See Chap. 9) Meanwhile,
in 1969, the Board decided to move G.S.O. from 305 E. 45th
St., where the rent was being doubled, to a new location
at 468 Park Ave., South.
same year, the first World Service Meeting was held in October,
in New York City. Bill had presented the idea of an international
conference two years before, and the Board had given its
enthusiastic approval. Now, some trustees made presentations
before the world delegates on their service responsibilities,
and had an opportunity to share with them at a reception.
As a result of the formation of the WSM, the trustees'
International Committee was judged to be redundant and was
dissolved (only to be reactivated in 1978).
Morse resigned as treasurer of the Board in 1970, and was
replaced by Arthur Miles. Like his predecessor, Miles was
vice president and treasurer of the Dime Savings Bank in
New York. For eight years he was to bring to the Board not
only sound and shrewd financial management but a lively
and entertaining sense of humor as well.
1970 International Convention in Miami, Florida, was attended
by 11,000, including the largest contingents from overseas,
especially from Latin America. The trustees, as always,
chaired many of the 75 sessions, and helped in other ways.
Bernard Smith was the main speaker on Saturday night. But
for the Board, it was a trying time. Bill was scheduled
to make two major talks and otherwise participate a number
of times over the four days, but was so ill that one appearance
after another had to be cancelled, with someone else stepping
in at the last moment. Dr. Jack and Bob H. in particular
spent much of their time in Bill's hotel room apprising
him of what was going on downstairs and protecting him from
the membership. On Sunday morning, Bill appeared briefly
- his last public appearance.
three weeks after his return from the Convention, Bernard
Smith died of a heart attack on August 1, 1970. That same
day, Bill was flown back to Stepping Stones from the Miami
hospital where he had remained. He promptly got pneumonia,
from which he never fully recovered. On oxygen constantly
now, he began to have hallucinations. He had day and night
nurses in addition to constant care from Lois and Nell Wing.
By November, he was bedridden. Lois had to read his farewell
message at the annual "Bill's Birthday Dinner"
in New York. In a final, futile effort, he was taken back
to the Miami hospital in January in a chartered Learjet,
accompanied by Lois and Nell. They arrived on January 24—Lois
and Bill's 53rd wedding anniversary. At 11:30 that
night he died.
G.S.O., an emergency plan that had been set up by Bob H.
was immediately activated. All the people who should be
notified had been listed according to the method to be used—some
by phone, some by telegram, some by letter. The names were
assigned to staff members, employees and volunteers who
went into action when the word came. On Tuesday, January
26, a lengthy obituary complete with Bill's full name
and picture appeared on the front ~ page of the New York
Times, carried over to the inside.
February 14, simultaneous memorial services for Bill were
attended by tens of thousands of A.A.'s. They were held
in New York City at St. John the Divine; in Washington,
D.C., at the National Cathedral; in London, at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields;
in Montreal, at Notre Dame Cathedral; in Palm Beach, at
Bethesda by the Sea; in Aruba, at the Sacred Heart Church
- all crowded with grateful alcoholics who traced their
sobriety to this man. Months later, in October, a memorial
service was held at Bristol Cathedral in England to coincide
with the First European Convention (see Chap XX) Travers
C, who convened both events, recalls that Bob H., from G.S.O.
in New York, delivered an unforgettable eulogy to an estimated
2,000 people "This was the largest crowd ever gathered
in the cathedral since it was built about 1400," he
recovering from the initial shock, perhaps the first reaction
of most of the trustees and most of the members was, "what
will happen now? Will A.A. survive without Bill?"
In actual fact, in the words of Dr. Jack, "Alcoholics
Anonymous didn't miss a beat." with the service
structure and the Conference firmly in place, with a strong
and dedicated General Service Board of trustees, with an
experienced and effective General Service Office—and above
all, with the Steps, the Traditions and the Concepts to
follow - A.A. not only survived, it dried its collective
tears after the memorial services were over and launched
upon a decade of unparalleled growth, robust health and
decade of the '70s saw increased interest in service.
The Concepts, largely ignored while Bill was alive, began
to be studied seriously; at A.A. conferences and conventions,
workshops on the Concepts drew interested crowds. New groups
registered at G.S.O. at the rate of 10 to 15 per day, and
many existing meetings were bulging at the walls. Literature
sales reached new records every year; while it had taken
34 years to sell the first million copies of the Big Book
(1939 to 1973), it took only five years (1973 to 1978) to
sell the second million. A.A. continued its triennial surveys
to learn more about itself. World Service Meetings, held
bi-annually, gathered momentum, and reported developing
service structures and rapidly growing membership almost
everywhere abroad. Mini-conferences, soon renamed Regional
Forums brought the Board and the office out to interested
A.A.'s all over the U.S. and Canada.
was helped mightily by an outside event—the so-called Hughes
Bill, hailed as "alcoholism's Magna Carta."
Signed into law by President Nixon on December 31, 1969,
the legislation was a sweeping recognition of alcoholism
by the Federal government. Through grants to states, it
led to alcoholism treatment programs by every state and
almost every locality—literally thousands of treatment centers
in all. And most of these facilities offered A.A. meetings
on the premises and/or encouraged their patients to attend
A.A. upon graduation. Although the treatment centers themselves,
and particularly the influx of patients, caused some turmoil
and some adjustment within some A.A. groups, the result
of the referrals was a virtual flood of newcomers into the
Fellowship. The armed services developed active alcoholism
programs, bought huge quantities of A.A. literature, and
became another source of referrals. Occupational alcoholism
programs, which had existed in limited numbers since the
'40s, now proliferated explosively. Under a new and
euphemistic name of Employee Assistance Programs, they,
by any name, sent still more recruits to A.A.
decade was also marked by unprecedented reaching out by
the Board to other countries, through trips made by Dr.
1972, he was invited by the U.S. Army to visit five cities
in West Germany to help set up alcoholism programs. In his
meetings with Army and civilian officials, he covered not
only the disease of alcoholism but the recovery program
of Alcoholics Anonymous. Local A.A. members were alerted
by G.S.0. in New York, and met with Dr. Jack on his trip.
The next year, he was invited by the U.S. Air Force to make
a similar visit to bases in Germany, England, Greece and
Spain. In 1975, he made an around-the-world trip. The purpose
was to attend the International Congress on Alcohol and
Drug Dependence in Bangkok, Thailand; but en route, before
and after, Dr. Jack was able to able to visit A.A. groups
in Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, India, South Africa,
France, Belgium, many cities in Germany, and England. On
another occasion, he spent time with A.A.'s in Brazil
and Columbia, South America, and made still other trips
to Scandinavia. Similarly, the general manager of G.S.O.,
representing the Board, visited A.A. first in Australia
and New Zealand; and later in Iceland, England, Holland,
Germany, Sweden, Finland, and Italy.
1971, the rotation and election of trustees according to
Herb M.'s chart was completed and the General Service
Board was at its full complement of 21. The first Class
B trustees-at-large were Jim H. from the U.S. and Tom C.
from Canada—though some vagueness remained over their status
and function for several years. One thing was clear: they
were not "super-regionals." New Class A's
were Milton Maxwell, who was made chairman of the Grapevine
board; and Dr. John Bealer of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, assistant
medical director of Bethelehem Steel Co. and member of American
Medical Society on Alcoholism, who was to serve with dedication
and great enthusiasm until 1980.
immediately after Bill's death, one of the first actions
of the Board was a resolution to Lois, acknowledging her
role in A.A. as well as Al-Anon since "no words can
express the Board's love and gratitude to Bill."
And a professional writer, Robert Thomsen, came to the Board
claiming Bill and Lois had chosen him to write a biography
of A.A.'s co-founder which Harper, & Row had agreed
to publish After checking with Lois and the book publisher,
who confirmed Thomsen's claim, the Board agreed tc
cooperate by making archival materials available to the
author. In return, he agreed to submit his manuscript to
A.A. for review. A small ad hoc committee of the Board plus
two staff—Nell Wing and Paula C., managing editor of the
Grapevine—were appointed as liaison. The project took four
years to complete, and the biography, entitled simply Bill
W. was published in hard-back in 1975. The Board promptly
authorized purchase, at a discount price, of several thousand
copies to be sold at the International Convention in Denver
in July and then added to inventory of literature offered
Board immediately ran into objections from some members
of the Fellowship who felt that G.S.O. 's distributing
a non-Conference-approved book by an outside publisher implied
endorsement, in violation of the Sixth Tradition. The next
year, the Conference action directed G.S.O. to cease distribution.
"They were right, of course," says Bob P., general
manager of G.S.O. at the time. "The Board had simply
assumed naively that a biography of the co-founder would
be welcomed by the Fellowship. But in retrospect, there
were other reasons to detach from the Bill W. book. It was
primarily the love story of Bill and Lois and his drinking
story; it treated rather superficially Bill's A.A.
involvement. Also, it was a fictionalized biography, with
narration and dialogue which the author could not possibly
Thomsen's book continued to sell through bookstores.
It was published in paperback and was condensed by Readers
Digest. The Conference later authorized a definitive biography
of Bill to be written by A.A.W.S. Entitled Pass It On, it
was published in 1984. (See Chap. 12)
Long Range Planning Committee met periodically during the
early '70s - not during Board weekends like the other
standing committees, but separately and with more time for
contemplation. They examined, for instance, "the dwindling
quality of sponsorship" in A.A. On another occasion,
a guest, Dr. Charles Aharan, a sociologist, talked on the
mechanics of group therapy and what A.A. can learn from
the professionals. "Or vice versa," as one committee
member put it.
year after Bill's death, Lois offered their home,
Stepping Stones, to A.A. as a gift. After thorough discussion,
the Board recommended against accepting her offer, feeling
it would not be in keeping with the spirit of the Sixth
Tradition. And the Conference confirmed that recommendation.
(Lois subsequently made the same offer to Al-Anon, who also
declined. Although Lois was disappointed and hurt at these
decisions, she eventually followed a suggestion that she
establish a separate, private foundation, with its own board
of trustees, to ensure Stepping Stones would be maintained
Maxwell informed the Board in 1972 that he had received
a grant from the National Institute for Alcoholism and Alcohol
Abuse (NIAAA) for a book on how Alcoholics Anonymous operates,
to create better understanding among professionals. Dr.
Maxwell wanted to be absolutely sure that it would not be
interpreted as a conflict of interest for him to remain
on the Board while engaged in this work. They assured him,
however, that, his professional activities were separate
from his Board obligations; and that, indeed, his book would
be to A.A.'s benefit. That decision did not prevent
the matter being brought before the Conference two years
later, to Dr. Maxwell's acute embarrassment. After
a short but heated discussion, the "substantial unanimity"
of the Conference supported Dr. Maxwell and the Board's
position. Completion of the work was considerably delayed
as Dr. Maxwell replaced Dr. Jack as chairman of the General
Service Board (see below), serving four years in that capacity.
The book, titled The Alcoholics Anonymous Experience and
subtitled "A Close-Up View for professionals",
was published in 1984 by McGraw-Hill Book Company and lived
up to the promised expressed early by the Board. The author
pointedly omits any personal identification with A.A.
P. was elected a general service trustee in 1972, replacing
Bayard P. Niles, a journalist from Connecticut, had been
active in service, particularly as a volunteer at G.S.0.
He resigned from the Board the following year to become
assistant general manager under Bob H. to help with a big
increase in workload at the office. Walter M., a public
relations executive who joined the Board in 1973, was to
have an especially heavy commitment as chairman of the trustees'
Public Information Committee and chairman of the A.A.W.S.
Board, both of which meet monthly. In his professional capacity,
he was responsible for the publicity and the pressroom at
three international conventions (1970, '75 and '80),
all of which had outstanding coverage. At the same time,
Bob M., a long¬time member from a suburb of Hartford,
Conn., became a trustee and chairman of the Professional
Relations Committee—renamed the Cooperation with the Professional
Community (CPC) Committee the next year - which made great
strides under his leadership. Bob H. also served as chairman
of the A.A.W.S. Board.
trustees decided in the mid-'70s to hold an A.A. meeting
during each Board weekend, to help the staff, the non-trustee
directors of the operating boards and the trustees get to
know each other better. After a long evolution from the
relatively brief daytime meetings of the Alcoholic Foundation
in its early days, the quarterly meetings of the General
Service Board had now settled into a format that filled
a long weekend. Some trustees arrived in New York as early
as Thursday to attend the A.A.W.S. or Grapevine Board meetings,
and most of the rest checked into the Hotel Roosevelt by
Friday evening. The eleven regular committee meetings commenced
early Saturday morning and continued all day, usually two
running concurrently. Saturday dinner was open to non-trustee
directors, non-trustee committee members and G.S.O. staff
and their spouses or guests, followed by the A.A. meeting—,
followed, in turn, by the customary ice cream run. Committee
meetings continued through Sunday, with the town-meeting-like
Policy Committee scheduled for early afternoon (later replaced
by; the "General Sharing Session"). After a
trustees-only dinner Sunday evening, they remained at the
table for several hours of informal discussion of concerns
they did not wish to bring up for formal debate at the Board
meeting. The purpose, the agenda and the tone of these trustees-only
sessions were set to some extent by the current chairman.
Finally, on Monday morning, the actual Board meeting was
held from 9 a.m. until noon, attended by the staff and other
key executive personnel, and consultants. After lunch, the
out-of-town trustees left for home.
the issues requiring Board attention in this era were these.
In California, a judge had begun giving drunk-driving offenders
the choice of going to jail or going to A.A. meetings. Some
groups were upset over the "sentencing" of people
to A.A. when they did not want to be there, and over the
request that the secretary sign attendance cards. This problem,
first discussed by the Board in 1972, was to burgeon to
national proportions in the years that followed. Organizations
patterned after A.A. were springing up constantly—e.g.,
Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous,
etc., etc.—and wished to use the Twelve Steps, the Twelve
Traditions, the Preamble, and sometimes more extensive portions
of A.A. literature. Bill favored sharing A.A.'s recovery
program as widely as possible, but the Board also felt its
responsibility to protect the Fellowship's proprietary
rights to its own literature. So the trustees wrestled with
the task of setting the right policy path to follow. The
National Council on Alcoholism, trying to lessen the stigma
of the disease, was pressing to identify "recovered
alcoholics" by full name and full face on television.
Since most of these were A.A. members, many of the A.A.'s
in the TV audience saw this as a violation of the Eleventh
Tradition. After furrowing their brows over several months,
the trustees arrived at the policy that if a person shown
full face on TV identified himself or herself only as a
"recovered alcoholic", it was technically not
an anonymity break; however, a person appearing on TV as
an A.A. member should be shown only in shadow and only by
first name and initial.
internal policy matter with which the Board came to grips
was the length of term of the non-trustee committee members.
The service given by these specially qualified volunteers
was invaluable to the functioning of some of the trustees'
committees. For example, trustees did not necessarily have
experience inside jails or prisons (though some certainly
did!), so it was only logical to augment the Institutions
Committee with A.A. members who had served time. And few
trustees had worked for newspapers or broadcast media, nor
were they public relations professionals. So if the work
of the committee was to be done, it needed additional members
with this background. And so it was with other committees
as well. In their reports, the trustee chairmen frequently
acknowledged their deep debt to the non-trustee members.
However, some of the latter served on their committees year
after year, indefinitely, since no limit was set. The Board,
therefore, established a policy that non-trustee members
must rotate out after four one-year terms.
noted before, Bill had long tried to preserve historic records
"so that the story of A.A. cannot be garbled."
Two years after his death, the Board felt the needs was
even more pressing and voted to establish an A.A. Archives
as part of G.S.O. A trustees' Archives Committee was
set up to help implement the decision and to formulate policy:
What documents should be classified confidential, and what
freely shared? Who should be given the right of access to
the files? Should photos and memorabilia be saved along
with written records? And so on. The Archives, under the
direction of Nell Wing, was officially opened at a ceremony
following the November, 1975, meeting of the General Service
P., who had rotated off the Board two years before, was
approved in July, 1974, as the next general manager of G.S.O.
He joined the office in September and stepped into the job
January 1, 1978, reporting to Bob H., who retained the historic
title of Chairman of General Services until he retired at
the end of 1977. Bob P. was to continue as general manager
until after the 50th Anniversary International Convention
in July, 1985.
the '70s, partly as a result of the Hughes Bill, large
numbers of A.A.s became employed in the field of alcoholism.
"The 'two-hatters' who always kept it
clear which hat they were wearing had no trouble,"
says Bob M., CPC chairman at the time. "But those
who mixed up the two hats made problems for themselves and
us, too." The subject recurred at the Board deliberations.
Because the annual Forum of the National Council on Alcoholism
(NCA) attracted those employed in the field, including A.A.
members, the Board was invited to put on a workshop for
them. Through the CPC committee and with G.S.O. staff help,
this participation at the Forums continued for several years.
And as the number of treatment centers increased dramatically,
the importance of "bridging the gap" into A.A.
occupied more and more attention at the Board level.
Board was involved, as usual, in the 40th Anniversary International
Convention held in Denver, Colorado, in July, 1975. The
event was an overwhelming success, and Bob H., chairman
of the Convention, was able to report to the Board meeting
held immediately afterward in Denver that paid registrations
totaled 19,300—far in excess of the 12,000 budgeted. This
produced a surplus convention income of about $83,000 for
the General Fund. (See Chap. 21) A brand-new Class A trustee
at the Convention was Gordon Patrick, from Toronto, Canada.
Manager of the provincial government's Employee Alcoholism
Program and formerly associated with the Addiction Research
Foundation of Ontario, was a long-time loyal friend of Alcoholics
Anonymous. He was to serve the Board so well that he was
to become its Chairman in 1982.
of the most outstanding nonalcoholic trustees in the history
of the Board was elected in 1976. He was Michael Alexander,
who as a young attorney had been an associate of Bernard
Smith! As a partner in the law firm of Smith, Steibel, Alexander
and Saskor, he had been for 20 years the outside legal counsel
to the Board. Alexander was to serve faithfully and brilliantly
on the Finance Committee, the Policy Committee, as a trustee
director of the A.A. World Services Board and in many other
ways. He became recognized as an authority on the Concepts
and on his own wrote a condensed version of them which became
a G.S.O. service piece. The respect he enjoyed from the
delegates as well as his peers on the Board made his opinion
always influential until his rotation in 1985.
epochal action of the Board its Denver meeting was approval
of the proposal to hold experimental mini-conferences (renamed
the next year Regional Forums). The idea was attributed
to Dr. Jack, who tells how it came about. "From the
hostile attitude of a few delegates at the Conference over
the years, I was aware of a general lack of understanding
between 'them' and 'us'. Then, in
December of 1974, I went to San Francisco to deliver a paper
on the results of the membership survey to the North American
Congress on Alcohol Problems. Bob M. and Mary Ellen U. from
the staff went with me because they were on CPC. George
D., the delegate from that area, took advantage of our being
there to arrange a large service meeting held in an amphitheater
type of room. It was mostly a group of dissidents, and the
meeting mostly consisted of Bob M., Mary Ellen and myself
answering their questions. And it seemed to take the fire
out of that meeting. Bob M. especially was such a great
person, so easy and comfortable like an old shoe, you couldn't
be mad at him. That meeting gave me the idea," Dr.
Jack concludes. "It made me realize it was important
for members throughout the movement to be able to meet the
trustees and the G.S.O. staff members and ask them questions
and get them answered."
D., who later became a notable regional trustee, remembers
the meeting and what happened afterward. "Bob H. called
me from New York and asked me if I would write him a letter
about it, with the idea that it might be done elsewhere.
So I did, and the next thing I knew my letter had been circulated
to all the delegates. I knew I had been 'used'" says George,
"but I didn't mind because it was an exciting idea." Indeed,
Bob H. had pounced on the concept enthusiastically, because
he had long felt that the delegates' reporting of the Conference
to their constituencies back home was an inadequate form
of communication, and had harbored the notion of some kind
of' road show' to take the trustees and the staff out to
the Fellowship. With Dr. Jack and Bob H. taking the lead,
the proposal was approved by the Board and—after two experimental
mini-conferences—by the General Service Conference as well.
(See Chap. 11 on the Conference and Chap. 16 for a history
of the Regional Forums.)
factor was having a salutary effect on the quality of the
delegates and regional trustees. As reported to the Board
during these years, nearly all the regions now held annual
meetings of past and present delegates and trustees prior
to the Conference. At first such meetings were viewed with
suspicion that they were a means of prolonging the power
of the past delegates and trustees; or a means of instructing
newly elected delegates how to vote. However, in actual
practice these fears proved groundless, and—besides enjoyment
of fellowship with friends in service—the gatherings served
to put new delegates at ease and better prepare them for
their Conference responsibilities.
the 1976 Conference, during a floor discussion, Austin MacCormick
rose to point out that the deliberations of the Conference
Institutions Committee were clumsy because they covered
both treatment and correctional facilities which had very
little in common. It was moved on the spot to divide the
Institutions committee into a Treatment Committee and a
Corrections Committee. So, the Board followed suit afterward.
the 40 years since A.A. began, communications had changed
in the outside world. Television was now in every home,
and young people were accustomed to learning through audio-visual
media—films, filmstrips and videocassettes—in
addition to the printed word. The trustees' Literature
Committee took note and recommended the formation of an
Audio/Visual Subcommittee. The Board approved. The A/V Subcommittee
authorized a filmstrip to be made to explain the service
structure, "Circles of Love and Service," The
Board then took the giant step of authorizing—subject
to Conference approval—a documentary film about A.A.
providing it could be made within the anonymity tradition.
French Literature Committee in Quebec had by now translated
and published in the French language the majority of the
Conference-approved literature. However, Quebec delegates
now reported problems. According to them, the committee
was operating with a self-perpetuating board of directors
who were not responsible to any A.A. service entity. The
delegate complained that French-language literature was
overpriced and that the committee was building up a large
surplus. They appealed for help from A.A.W.S. and through
them, from the General Service Board. Fortunately, the Eastern
Canada regional trustee at the time was a bilingual dynamo,
Peter W., who tackled the problem. He arranged a two-day
meeting in Montreal of the interested parties: the French
Literature Committee; the Quebec delegates; and from A A
W S the president, the controller, Dennis Manders and the
staff coordinator, with himself presiding It was a stormy
meeting ostensibly conducted in English but with long portions
breaking over into French, marked by French excitability
It proved to be an historic meeting, for it led eventually
to the creation of a French Literature Conseul, or board,
of nine members four from the French Literature Committee,
four Quebec delegates, and the Eastern Canada trustee—meeting
frequently to set policy and supervise the committee. In
addition, meetings have continued to be held annually in
locations rotated around Quebec for a larger representation
from the committee, a larger delegation from the Quebec
service structure, and representatives of A.A.W.S. These
meetings have been helpful in ironing out other problems
in ensuring that equal services are provided to A.A.'s
"Jim" Estefle, Jr., was named a Class A trustee
in 1977, replacing Austin MacCormick as the Board's
expert in corrections. He was director of the Texas Department
of corrections. A man of deep compassion, who understood
and admired A.A., Jim was to be a strong and influential
leader throughout his nine years on the Board, not only
as chairman of the Committee on correctional Facilities
but on the Finance, Nominating and other committees.
in 1977, John B. was elected a director of A.A.W.S. after
serving as a non-trustee member of the trustees' Public
Information Committee. With a Ph.D. in physics, John had
joined A.A. in 19?? in the Albany/Schenectady area where
he was an executive in research and development for a large
-corporation. He moved to New York City in another executive
position and became very active in A.A. there. He was to
become a general service trustee (see below) and in 1985,
general manager of G.S.O.
the October, 1976, Board meeting, Dr. Jack Norris announced
his intention to retire as chairman after the 1978 Conference,
four months before his 75th birthday. He had been a trustee
for 27 years, chairman for 17. Handsome, white haired, gentle,
wise and internationally respected in the field of alcoholism,
Dr. Jack was the quintessential chairman figure. The trustees'
Nominating Committee, Chuck H., chairman, polled the remaining
Class A's to see who would be available and who they
would favor. The vice Chairman, Milton Maxwell, was the
obvious choice. The problem was, he said he could not accept.
He was absorbed at the time in his book project.
deadline for a decision drew nearer. Dr. Maxwell attended
the January, 1978, meeting of the Nominating Committee,
where, after discussion, he was asked to wait outside He
recalls that John W., a respected regional trustee from
Washington D.C., took him by the arm and pleaded, "Don't
say no " A few moments later, Dr. Maxwell was called
back in. "I went in there determined to turn it down,"
he recalls. "I really meant to. But after I explained
about the book and why I couldn't accept—then
I just sort of gave in and said I'd do it. The words
came out of a funny feeling, an interesting feeling, and
for a month or two I wondered, "Was that valid "guidance"?'
It certainly set my book back by a couple of years, but
that's all right. I'm happy about it all now.
It seems to me there was a period of tranquillity on the
Board and in A.A. generally those four years—no stresses
and strains like there have been more recently.
a year before Dr Norris retired he received the Gold Key
award of the NCA for his years of leadership of Alcoholics
Anonymous He was only the ninth such recipient in NCA history.
That Dr. Maxwell has such pleasant
memories of his term is a measure of the man, for the Board
included two Class B trustees who are remembered by some
of their peers as being fractious and contentious When they
were rude to the Chairman, he remained imperturbable. On
the other hand, the Board also included a number of notable
Class B's who made memorable contributions. One of
these was Virginia H. from Milwaukee, a round woman with
a pretty, smiling face, who had served 14 years in prison
and went on to be a leader in service, including U.S. delegate
to the WSM in Helsinki, Finland. Her enthusiasm, her boisterous
laugh and her A.A. love made her loss in a highway accident
in (WHEN) especially poignant.
was N.M. "Mac'. C., trustee-at-large from Winnipeg,
Canada, also a WSM delegate. Known for his twelfth-step
work and sponsorship, Mac was widely in demand as a speaker.
His talk at the spiritual meeting on Sunday morning at the
1980 International Convention in New Orleans, in which he
shared his loss of a son to cancer followed by his own recent
cancer surgery, was called by one staff member (along with
many others) "the finest A.A. talk I ever heard."
A thinker and philosopher, Mac goaded his fellow - Class
B's to rise up to their responsibility to all of A.A.
and not to think of themselves as regional, not to be simply
a "super-delegate". The Fellowship makes two
kinds of contributions to World Services," he said,
"one is money and the other is people."
the policy decisions of the Board in the late '70s
were these. It formalized and affirmed the principle set
forth in Concept IX relating to compensation of paid workers;
namely, that managers, staff members, employees and consultants
at G.S.O. and the Grapevine were entitled to compensation
comparable to what they would be paid for in the outside
world. They set forth a financial policy for the Grapevine
requiring that the reserve for unearned subscriptions be
part of the Reserve Fund of A.A. under the control of the
trustees and invested by the trustees' Finance Committee.
It should, however, be earmarked for the use for which it
was intended, and the interest earned on this money would
be available to the magazine to apply against any operating
deficits that might be incurred. This policy had initially
been vehemently resisted by the Grapevine staff and corporate
board, chaired by Chuck H. It was finally hammered out at
an ad hoc meeting held during a Regional Forum in Amarillo,
Texas, and was referred to afterward as "The Treaty
learning of Dr. Jack's intention to retire, the Southeast-New
York area assembly forwarded to the Board a resolution that
an -alcoholic Class B should be the next chairman. In considering
the matter, the Board felt there were advantages to having
the chairman able to act as a spokesperson to the press
and to the public; but more importantly, that election of
an A.A. member to the post would politicize the position.
Their recommendation against the resolution was later affirmed
by the Conference once again George D., delegate from the
Northern Coastal area of California, put the cap on the
Conference discussion when he rose to the microphone to
declare, "If alcoholics could run for Board chairman, Sam
S (delegate from South Florida) and I would already be trying
to knock each other out of the race!"
the trustees' Literature Committee, the Board had
to deal with another area complaint, this one from the Northern
Interior area of California, to the effect that "New
York was trying to weaken the anonymity tradition. The specific
indictment was the wording of a sentence in the pamphlet,
Understanding Anonymity, which said that A.A. speakers at
public meetings may use their full names if they ask the
press to identify them only by first name and last initial
and request no photographs be taken. The letter from the
area quoted Bill as saying that speakers at public meetings
should use first names only. They were right—but so
was the wording of the pamphlet, for Bill had said different
things at different times, consistency not being one of
his hallmarks. So the Board left it up to the Conference,
which decided on the more conservative rule and the wording
was changed in the pamphlet.
the gap" continued to be a concern, and a paper on
the subject by Dr. Jack was recommended by the Board as
a service piece. Notice was taken through the International
Committee that cockpit personnel of commercial airlines
were holding regularly scheduled, very anonymous A.A. meetings
of their own, usually at airports in the U.S. and abroad.
They called themselves "Birds of a Feather."
(See Chap. 19)
A.A.W.S. reports to the Board as
the decade drew to a close revealed exciting activity worldwide.
The Tokyo G.S.O. was being helped financially to publish
the Big Book in Japanese; and Norway, to produce a 3rd edition
in Norwegian. Permission to reprint A.A. literature in Australia
was withdrawn from the New South Wales service office and
granted, instead, to the more recently formed General Service
Board for that country. A ruckus ensued and Bob P. was authorized
to go over and attempt to resolve the dispute. Dr. Jack
was authorized to deliver a paper at the International Congress
on Alcoholism in Warsaw, Poland—and attend the WSM
in Finland afterward, as an observer. Dr. Bealer was authorized
to attend a World Health Organization meeting on alcoholism
in Geneva, Switzerland (November, 1979) also as an observer.
Dr. Maxwell accepted an invitation from the General Service
Board in Iceland to attend the 25th Anniversary convention
of A.A. there.
April 16, 1973, the one millionth copy of the Big Book was
presented to the President of the United States, Richard
Nixon, in a brief ceremony at the White House. Present were
Dr. Jack, Bob H., and Tom P., a prominent A.A. member from
Los Angeles who was a friend of the President. On WHAT DATE,
1979, the two millionth copy was presented to Secretary
of Health, Education and welfare Joseph Califano by Lois
Wilson in a ceremony at A.A.'s General Service Office
in New York. (Secretary Califano was the highest ranking
government official ever to visit G.S.O.)
the '70s, the country experienced the worst inflationary
spiral of the twentieth century; and A.A. grew phenomenally.
The congruence of these two events meant that greatly increased
services were required of G.S.O., but the budget to supply
those services also increased. At the same time, literature
sales skyrocketed. A.A. Controller Dennis Manders and Owen
J. "Bud" Flanagan, A.A.'s outside auditor
and financial advisor to the general Service Board as well
as to the A.A.W.S. and Grapevine boards, had both followed
these trends closely, and in July, 1978, they briefed Frank
Smeal, who had replaced Arthur Miles as treasurer of the
Board and chairman of its Finance Committee. Hence, at that
time, the Board took formal note of—and viewed with
some alarm—the fact that the portion of the cost of
group services represented by group contributions was declining
(even though the dollar amount of group contributions was
increasing); and the reliance on literature income to make
up the shortfall was growing. Eight years were to pass before
this concern was translated into a self-support program.
the financial picture of Alcoholics Anonymous had come a
long way from the desperate situation in the early days
of the old Alcoholic Foundation. Literature sales in 1979
were $3,274,520 - and even after subtracting the cost of
producing the material and the royalties, the income was
$1,913,560. Group contributions totaled $1,226,770. The
1979 budget for the office, Conference expenses, and Board
expenses totaled $2,625,200. At the end of the year, the
Reserve Fund balance stood at $2,689,550.
opening occurred, the Board acquired two medical doctors
as Class A trustees. Kenneth H. Williams, whose primary
interest was teaching physicians and other health care professionals
about alcoholism, had been a speaker on the medical panel
at the Denver Convention, where he had impressed Board members.
He was invited to join the Board in 1979. He died near the
end of his term in April, 1986. William E. Flynn was already
well-known to the Board -when he was elected trustee in
1980. As a professor at the Georgetown University School
of Medicine in Washington, D.C., he had met A.A. regional
trustee John W., and together they had devised a plan to
actually sponsor first-year medical students to attend A.A.
meetings as part of their curriculum, as a way to teach
them how to deal with alcoholism. This "Georgetown
Plan" was copied by a number of other medical schools.
In his term as trustee, Bill Flynn was not only to chair
the Treatment Facilities Committees but give valued service
on the CPC, International and other committees, and as a
director on the Grapevine board.
Board's major activity in 1980 was, as in any Convention
year, the 45th Anniversary International Convention on a
swelteringly hot four-day July Fourth weekend in New Orleans.
The program featured far more simultaneous state and regional
alkathons and workshops than ever before, plus the first
marathon meeting going continuously, day and night, from
Thursday midnight to Sunday morning. Homosexual A.A. members
held their first "official" events at an International
Convention The 22,500 paid registrations included a record
number of overseas A.A.'s, especially from Latin America
and including en masse the delegates from the WSM held the
week before in Glen Cove, New York. Despite the largest-ever
crowd and the success of the Convention, it resulted in
a deficit of $208,000. The highly publicized heat wave plus
an economic recession reduced attendance below the 25,000
budgeted; and some expenses (e.g. for transportation and
simultaneous translation service mandated by the Conference)
ran unexpectedly and unavoidably over budget. The 1981 Conference
directed to Board not to budget future Internationals for
a deficit and to make sure they would be supported entirely
by registration income.
Board meeting immediately following the close of the Convention
was attended by so many guests—directors of the subsidiary
boards, WSM delegates and others—and was so confusing,
due partly to everyone's fatigue, that it was recommended
that future Board meetings not be held in conjunction with
Internationals. One piece of business that was transacted
arose from the death of Aime D., from British Columbia,
who had been elected Western Canada regional trustee in
April but had died only a month later. It was decided to
leave the position vacant until the 1981 Conference.
Mike R., Southwest regional trustee, had chaired the trustees'
Archives Committee in 1979, he had asked, "How many in the
Fellowship even know there is an Archives?" Largely at his
initiative, the Board approved production of a filmstrip
to "take the Archives out to the Fellowship"—and,
through this vehicle, to inform them about their own origins
and history. Entitled Markings on a Journey the filmstrip
was completed in 1980 and was an immediate hit at regional
forums and other A.A. conferences and conventions.
the outside society, the women's liberation movement
had—gained momentum during the seventies. In response,
the Board had authorized A.A. pamphlets to be degenderized
as they came up for revision or reprinting - and this had
been done. Feminists also - registered objections to the
completely masculine orientation of the Big Book; some specifically
found the use of the male pronoun in referring to God offensive.
Now, however, the Board rejected, as a matter of policy,
proposals to change the wording of Alcoholics Anonymous
or The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, on the grounds
they were historical documents reflecting the times in which
they were written.
in the outside world, the number of retired and elderly
was increasing—and so was the incidence of alcoholism
in this population. To help reach them, the Board had authorized
the pamphlet Time to Start Living, published in 1979, and
now it probed ways to carry the message into retirement
communities, nursing homes, etc.
most of 1981, an ad hoc committee chaired by Western Canada
regional trustee Al H. was engaged in reviewing A. A. literature
to see what might be eliminated or combined. The Conference
had long been ambivalent on the subject. It had worked with
the Board to produce a solid body of books and pamphlets:
the recovery material from the literature committees and
other pamphlets to meet the expressed needs of the committees
on public information, professional relations (later CPC),
institutions, etc. Although literature was produced only
at the direction of the Conference, new generations of trusted
servants felt vaguely that there was "too much." An earlier
committee in 1974 had eliminated two titles by combining
them with others, and the pamphlet So You Think You're Different
was produced primarily to prevent a proliferation of pieces
directed at special audiences. Now, after a thorough review,
the new committee could not find any title that did not
help the still-suffering-alcoholic directly or indirectly—though
they did recommend some changes and improvements.
A.A. grew, the service structure showed some strains. District
committee members (DCMs) were ideally responsible for six
to 20 groups, but in some areas districts grew to 100 groups
or more before the situation was remedied: either by subdividing
into several districts each with a DCM, or by creating a
new echelon of local committeemen. And some imbalance existed
both geographically and population-wise among the regions.
A past delegate from Southern California, Carl B., submitted
to the Board a carefully thought out and detailed plan for
reorganizing the service structure. Although the proposal
was recognized to have Some merit and provoked some serious
discussion, it was decided that no action was called for
at this time.
the number of Board committees grew to 11 and took over
many of the functions of the early Policy Committee, it
became known in the mid-'70's as the General
Sharing Session, it was still the place to bring up matters
not within the province of any specific committee, or to
discuss a subject requested by someone, or to consider broad
concerns that had formerly fallen to the defunct Long Range
Planning Committee, The format of the session permitted
a two-hour, in-depth discussion of a single topic: dually-addicted
members; anonymity; self-support; how to prevent A.A.'s
"playing doctor" with members taking prescribed
medications; how to make A.A. more attractive to newcomers;
"bridging the gap"; etc.
Maxwell announced at the November, 1981, Board meeting that
he would resign for health reasons after the next Conference,
He had experienced some minor speech difficulties that had
been diagnosed as the beginning of Parkinson's disease.
George D., whose term as Pacific regional trustee coincided
exactly with Dr. Maxwell's term as chairman, recalls
his distress at the news. "As a delegate, I had known
Dr. Jack, who was a great man and a strong leader, no question
about it. But Milton had an enormously beneficial influence,
too. He told me he felt the group dynamics of the Board
were bad and he wanted to get the trustees to open more
with each other as a group—less whispering in the
corridors. To create an atmosphere in which we all felt
more comfortable in freely expressing our opinions and feelings
to each other was definitely part of his agenda. And I think
for at least three years he succeeded in this. We had some
really wonderful Sunday night meetings after the trustees'
dinners.. I loved that man."
Nominating Committee again polled the Class A's as
to their availability and their recommendations for candidates.
Their selection was Gordon Patrick from Toronto, Canada
(see above), whose seven years of loyal and dedicated service
had made him unusually knowledgeable in the workings of
the Board. He had chaired a number of committees and often
attended other committee meetings as an interested observer.
Taking office in July, 1982, he blossomed in the chairmanship
and will be remembered for his energy, enthusiasm and activism.
He attended every Regional Forum, welcoming the attendees
on Friday night, summarizing the proceedings on Sunday morning
and participating at the sessions in between—and praised
the Forums as a valuable communications tool. From his own
experience, he felt the trustees did not take enough active
responsibility and leadership; and that, as a consequence,
the G.S.O. staff had moved in to fill the void. So one of
his first acts was to appoint what was simply called the
Ad Hoc Committee, whose assignment was to help the General
Service Board take its own inventory. John B. was chairman,
and it included Michael Alexander; David A., Southwestern
regional trustee. After a year of separate meetings, interviews
with present and past trustees, probing of records and diligent
work, the Ad Hoc Committee presented its lengthy report
at a special meeting of the Board prior to its October,
1983, gathering. The discussion that followed took four
immediate outgrowth was the appointment by Gordon Patrick
of a Committee to Study the Concepts, chaired by O.S. "Buck"
B., East Central regional trustee, known as an outspoken
and militant critic of the general manager and staff of
G.S.O. The mission of this committee was to discover the
origin of deletions and changes in the Twelve Concepts that
had been made routinely over the years when the structure
and practices themselves had changed. The alterations had
not passed through the Conference approval process, and
were apparently believed by "Buck" B. and others
to be an attempt at subversion by the staff. Exactly a year
later, the committee's report was made, entitled "Changes,
Authorized and Unauthorized, in the Twelve Concepts."
Although the findings were innocuous compared to the furor
that prompted the investigation, the Board voted to accept
the committee's recommendation that A.A. return to
the original 1962 version of the Concepts, with the use
of footnotes to indicate where it was obsolete and did not
accurately reflect present reality.
Wilson had now turned 91 and requested that A.A.W.S. amend
certain provisions of the 1962 royalty agreement that Bill
had negotiated with them. (See Chap. 12). Under that agreement,
Bill had bequeathed his royalty from the A.A. books he had
written to his widow, Lois; and she, in turn, was entitled
to will them to her heirs providing these individuals were
at least 40 years of age at the time of the agreement. (At
the death of each heir, the royalty would revert to A.A.)
Lois now wished to be allowed to leave a portion of her
royalties to a foundation (the Stepping Stones Foundation,
established to maintain and preserve the home and to fund
educational programs in alcoholism). She also wished to
include a nephew, son of Dr. Leonard Strong, as one of her
heirs even though he missed the cut-off date by a few months.
After prolonged but amicable negotiations, the A.A.W.S.
and General Service Board agreed to her requests, with the
provision that payment of the portion of royalties left
to the foundation would cease after 15 years.
1983, Joan K. Jackson, Ph.D., was elected to the Board,
the first female Class A trustee. A sociologist and consultant
to local and national boards and committees on alcoholism
and on health and human behavior, she had been involved
with A.A. and Al-Anon in the Seattle area before moving
with her husband to Bethany, Conn. Brilliant and dynamic,
Dr. Jackson began immediately to make significant contributions
to the Board. In their behalf, she accepted, in 1984, an
award from the Association of Labor & Management Alcoholism
Counselors of America (ALMACA) to Alcoholics Anonymous.
She provided leadership to several trustees' committees;
and, as chairperson of the Literature Committee, was responsible
for the writing and production of this book.
Arthur Miles' rotation from the Board in 1979, his
replacement was Frank Smeal. A partner in the prestigious
Wall Street firm of Goldman Sachs & Co., Mr. Smeal's
business obligations were so demanding that he was unable
to attend most of the Board meetings or trustees'
dinners, and so, after five years, he regretfully resigned.
The person elected to take his place as trustee, treasurer
and chairman of the Finance & Budgetary Committee bore
a familiar name: Robert P. Morse. He was the son of the
other Robert P. Morse who serves in the same position from
1965 to 1970! Head of his own investment-counseling firm,
he had served two years as a consultant to the Finance Committee.
P. informed the Board in July 1983 that he intended to retire
in February 1987, upon reaching his 70th birthday. As he
had managed the office without an assistant for eight years
and was feeling the pressure of his administrative responsibilities,
he requested that his successor be brought on board in the
next year, if possible. A subcommittee of the Nominating
Committee was formed to conduct a search for Bob's
replacement. After screening about a dozen suggested candidates,
they narrowed their choice to two whose names were presented
to the Nominating Committee in January 1984. The other members
of that committee passed over these candidates and drafted
John B., who had not made himself available and had to be
persuaded to accept. He reported for duty at G.S.O. May
1. He took over his new duties gradually over the next year,
and assumed full responsibility of the office immediately
following the 50th Anniversary International convention
in July 1985. (Bob P. remained as Senior Advisor until his
announced retirement date.)
Canada, had been chosen as the site of the next International
Convention, and through the early '90s the trustees
heard reports of unusually aggravating difficulties encountered
in the planning due to the language difference and local
political problems. A new interest in the Concepts was exemplified
by the by-laws of the General Service Board being amended
to include the Concepts in their short form, and also by
a recommendation of the Literature Committee (reversing
an earlier position) that a proposal for a "Twelve
Concepts Illustrated" pamphlet be "explored
and considered." And the biography of Bill was published
in late 1984. Titled 'Pass It On' and subtitled
The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached
the world, the book was a companion-volume to the biography
of the other co-founder, Dr.Bob and the Good Oldtimers,
published four years before. (See Chap. 12)
Alcoholics Anonymous prepared to enter its second half-century
(see final chapter), the General Service Board reflected
the maturity, strength and confidence of the Fellowship