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in the U.S.: How They Began and How They Grew,
South Central and Southeast
City and Western Missouri
Johnny P. from Chicago brought the
A.A. message to Kansas City, Missouri, in early April, 1941.
Johnny had been sober in the Chicago Group nine months—but
not until after he had lived on skid row and tried to kill
himself three times. A candy salesman now, and about to
be transferred to Kansas City, he wrote the New York office
for any information about A.A. there. He was sent three
letters written in response to the Saturday Evening Post
article, from Dr. Z. Miles N., a doctor; William "Bill"
T., a druggist; and Harvey L., a certified public accountant.
soon as Johnny P. arrived in Kansas City, he called the
three letter writers and they got together in his room at
the Robert E. Lee Hotel. They scheduled their first real
A.A. meeting as a group for a few days later at the Victoria
Hotel, then at 9th and McGee Streets. They also placed an
ad in the Kansas City Star to run each Sunday, giving a
P.O. box number. The group began to grow, and in August
moved to a room on the mezzanine floor of the Pickwick Hotel,
where they met every Friday night.
was there on September 21, 1941 that Ken S. came to his
first A.A. meeting—and never had another drink. He
recalls that in addition to the four founding members, four
others were present: L.W. T., Lee P., Vasco Y. and George
W., who brought Charlie M. to the next meeting. All nine
have since passed away, but Ken S. in 1985 - then 89 years
of age and 44 years sober—was still actively serving
as manager of the Kansas City Central Office. He was introduced
from the stage at the Friday night opening meeting of the
50th Anniversary International Convention in Montreal, recognizing
not only his longevity and service but also his remarkable
record as the only person (other than Lois W who had attended
every International Convention plus the one in Cleveland
in 1945. (See Chap. 21)
wife had seen the ad in the Star and had written to the
P.O. box. For Ken was about to lose his bookkeeping job
a second time and about to be evicted because of his drunkeness
and she now threatened to take the children and leave. As
a result, Ken quit his drinking cold turkey and went to
work on a Monday (too sick all day even to eat) and returned
to find that two men from A.A. had called. They Twelfth
Stepped him on Wednesday evening and told him to come to
the meeting on Friday. So Ken came to the Pickwick Hotel
and saw the group standing and talking together on the mezzanine
but lost his courage at the last moment "Then Divine
Providence took a hand in my life," says Ken. As he
was about to turn away and head for a familiar bar across
the street, one of the men spotted him, came toward him
and asked him if he was looking for the A.A. meeting. He
remained a member of that group, "Kansas City Number
One", ever afterward.
in most other places, the group had a pitiful struggle to
survive at first. Most of the members had suffered the depths
of alcoholic degradation. Some were so ill they died soon
afterward, and the sobriety of the others was fragile. At
one time, they were down to three members! And they had
so little money they couldn't afford coffee at the
meeting. Their treasurer got drunk and disappeared with
the group funds: $3.74! There was always an undercurrent
of fear for their survival - but survive they did.
W. made his first trip to Kansas City that November. "He
walked in on our meeting on a Friday night," Ken recalls.
"Only Dr. N. knew he was coming, because Bill was staying
at his house. He said that when he and Dr. Bob sat down
to talk in 1935, it was one common drunk talking to another
common drunk. I've always remembered that. So that's how
I've always introduced myself." Bill suggested that growth
might be more rapid if the group included the wives in the
meetings and the social activities. So the Friday night
meetings became open. During Bill's visit, a public dinner
meeting was held with a number of judges, ministers and
police officials as guests—about 40 present, in all.
It was the first time any of the A.A. members had heard
Bill speak, of course, and was a tremendous thrill.
friend of Charlie M.'s named Landon Laird was an extremely
popular columnist on the Kansas City Star. When he saw what
had happened to Charlie, Laird began to mention A.A. frequently
in his daily column, "About Town," usually giving
the P.O. Box number. "Landon Laird did for us locally
what Jack Alexander did for us nationally," says Ken.
"Kansas City Number One" grew, it moved from
the Pickwick to a succession of larger locations: first
to 112 W. Linwood. Blvd., followed by the Newbern Hotel,
then to the Boulevard Manor Hotel, next to Robison's
Hall, later for many years at 6125 Troost and finally to
624 E. 63rd Street. The attendance numbers show why these
moves were necessary. In 1949, there were 632 members who
met together on Fridays but separated into 38 neighborhood
units or "squads" on Tuesday night.
Miles N., who lived in Kansas City, Kansas, left the group
in 1942 to form the first group in his own town, known popularly
as the "Shrine on the Hill" group. That same
year, Ken S. and Charlie M. called on the first woman prospect.
One of the questions she asked was, were there other women
at the meetings? The callers assured her there were, only
they didn't tell her they weren't alcoholics.
As it turned out, when she discovered that she was the first
woman alcoholic in Kansas City A.A., she was thrilled. Kay
B., which was her name, helped bring in several more women
before moving away two years later.
W. paid a second visit to Kansas City in June 1943, accompanied
by Bobbie B., the secretary in the New York office with
whom the group had often corresponded. A dinner was held
for them at the Newbern Hotel, with 152 in attendance, some
from surrounding towns.
the spring of 1945, the group received a letter informing
them that a national convention would be held in Cleveland
on June 15 to celebrate A.A.'s 10th Anniversary. "My
wife and I didn't have the money to go, but we went
anyway," says Ken, arid the experience made an indelible
impression on him, with implications for the rest of the
group in Kansas City. "Cleveland was the biggest hotbed
of A.A. you ever saw in those days, Ken recalls, "and
everybody was there—Bill and Lois and Bobbie B., and
that's where I met Dr. Bob. He came over at breakfast
and just sat down and talked to us." Dr.Bob mentioned
that he was going to Iowa City, Iowa, to speak at an anniversary
two years later, in 1947; so Ken and three other Kansas
City A.A.'s drove to hear him and talk to him again.
After the Cleveland convention, Ken stopped by Chicago to
visit Earl T., the founder of A.A. in that city, and the
Chicago Central Office. From Chicago, he brought back the
idea of having a large, citywide A.A. meeting one night
a week, and then dividing into "squads" which
met in members' homes for more intensive sharing on
in March, 1945, Kansas City A.A. decided it would hold an
Anniversary Dinner each year in April, that year being its
Fourth Anniversary. The custom has been followed ever since.
were enough women members by 1947 to organize a Women's
Group which began meeting in February. At the Sixth Anniversary
Dinner that year, held at the Ivanhoe Temple, Dick S. from
New York City and Earl T. were speakers (the first time
out-of-town speakers had participated), and 536 persons
attended. The Monday morning Kansas City Times carried a
big story on the celebration.
in 1950, a controversy arose within "Kansas City Number
One" which caused 50 or 60 members to withdraw and
form the Fellowship Group, better known as the Plaza Group,
since it met at the west edge of the Country Club Plaza.
The breaking away proved beneficial to A.A.'s growth
in Kansas City, and by 1970, when the Central Office was
organized, there were 29 groups. By 1985, that number had
grown to 97, plus almost that many more in surrounding towns
in Western Missouri.
of these was Springfield, where the first A.A. group was
started by Jeanne C. While living in Kansas city for a while
during World War II, she was seriously ill with alcoholism.
Reading the ad in the Kansas City Star, she called and joined
Kansas City Number One in August 1942. Returning to Springfield,
she stayed sober two years by managing to drive to Kansas
City frequently despite gasoline rationing and by corresponding
with Bobbie B. at the A.A. service office in New York. Finally
Jeanne wrote an article on A.A. for the local paper and
obtained a post office box. When she had accumulated a dozen
names, she set the date of Springfield's first group
meeting, at her house on January 15, 1945. Later, Jeanne
helped A.A. get started in Joplin after receiving a phone
call from Jim S. asking her how to form a group. Jeanne
responded by rounding up several carloads of Springfield
and Kansas City members and descending on Joplin.
Louis and Eastern Missouri
Louis, Missouri, was the home of Father Ed Dowling, and
that fact alone would make it significant in A.A. history:
For, in Bill W.'s words as he introduced the clergyman at
the St. Louis Convention, "Father Ed helped start the first
A.A. group in this town; the was the first clergyman of
his faith to note the surprising resemblance between the
spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (founder of the Jesuit
order) and the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. He
was quick to write in 1940 the first Catholic recommendation
often told of his first meeting with Father Dowling. On
a cold and rainy night in 1940, Bill had gone upstairs to
lie down in the rooms over the Old 24th Street Clubhouse
where he and Lois were living at the time. The front doorbell
clanged and a moment later the caretaker came upstairs and
said a man from St.Louis was downstairs and wanted to see
him. Bill reluctantly agreed and soon "heard labored
steps on the stairs. Balanced precariously on a cane, he
came into the room, carrying a battered black hat...plastered
with sleet. He lowered himself into my solitary chair, and
when he opened his overcoat I saw his clerical collar. He
brushed back a shock of white hair and looked at me through
the most remarkable pair of eyes I have ever seen. We talked...and
my spirits kept on rising, and presently I began to realize
that this man radiated a grace that filled the room with
a sense of presence..." Thus, as Bill said elsewhere,
"Father Dowling wandered in out of the rain into a
20-year 'spiritual sponsorship.'"
Father Ed returned to St.Louis, he was contacted by F.,
who said his son-in-law had a drinking problem. Of course,
it was F. himself who had the drinking problem and was seeking
help. With Father Ed's aid and encouragement, F. rounded
up four other prospects and held the first A.A. meeting
in St.Louis (and in the state of Missouri) on October 30,
1940, at the Gibson Hotel, 5883 Enright Avenue. The first
newcomer got sober December 11 and the second on January
8, 1941. And on December 26, 1940, the St.Louis Star - Times
ran a favorable article under the headline, "Alcoholics
Anonymous, Fraternity that Streamlined the Waterwagon, Has
Formed a Group in St.Louis."
mid-'41, the group had grown to the point they had
to move their meetings to the Kingsway Hotel—and then,
in succession, to the Winston Churchill, the Castlereagh
Apartments and the Ballroom of the Jefferson Hotel. A second
group, called The Wilson Club, held its first meeting in
April '42. (This was not a club in the modern sense
of the word, but simply a name—a name which Bill tried
to discourage them from using, to no avail.) Part of the
reason for breaking away was to discontinue the Parent Group's
practice of inviting wives to attend; The Wilson Club was
for alcoholics only. And it devised all kinds of other rules,
regulations and restrictions; e.g.:
reserve the right to determine whether or not the applicant
is a true alcoholic, and if the Board decides negatively,
he is not admitted to membership." They ruled that
"Where necessary to advance rehabilitation money to
a prospective member, that money shall be PAID BACK...regardless
of whether the person advancing it wants it or not. And
they did not condone slipping; the rules required: "Upon
his or her first slip he shall admit his drunkenness to
the group and buy a copy of "A.A.". Upon his
second, he shall turn in his membership card and have a
private consultation with the Board. Upon his third slip,
he shall be automatically expelled." And they further
emphasized, "Believing that the slipper more than
anyone else will be injured by any deviation from the rule
3 above, it is inviolable...and shall apply to all."
Wilson Club also introduced a card system: white cards for
under six months' sobriety; blue for over six months
but under a year; and gold for over a year. Today groups
in St.Louis still use a similar card system: white for one
month; silver for six months; and gold for over a year,
with a gold star for each year thereafter.
June '43, Bill W. was invited to St.Louis to attend
a meeting of the full membership held at the Congress Hotel.
The Mayor, William D. Becker, also attended. As a result
of the visit, an alcoholic ward was set up at St.Louis City
Hospital. The following year, the DeBaliviere Club House
was opened as a Central Service Office and a facility for
several meetings. By then, several groups had spun off from
the Parent Group. By 1946, there were seven groups in all:
the Parent Group, The Wilson Club, the Water Tower Section
of The Wilson Club, St.Louis County Monday and Tuesday Groups,
and the Auxiliary Group. By '47, the number had grown
to 14; by '48, 16; and many more groups were spreading
throughout the surrounding area. An Alano Society was formed
in '45 to coordinate A.A. activity and provide a center
for meetings. Five years later, the membership of groups
meeting there was 600; by '55, 900. During this period,
several clubs were organized, but as the city spread, many
of the groups and clubs moved to locations in St.Louis County.
(Also, many of the new groups didn't list themselves
at G.S.O.) The best estimate is that there were 77 groups
in the city and the county by '65; 225 groups with
an estimated 3,500 members in '85.
also claims the first Black (then "Negro") A.A.
Group in the U.S. Calling itself "AA-1" , it
held its first meeting January 24, 1945, as reported by
Torrence S., secretary. They began with five members, but
grew steadily. A year afterward, they celebrated with their
First Annual Dinner Meeting with several invited guests
including "two Negro doctors, the secretary of the
YMCA, and a representative of the Urban League." A
revealing letter in September 1945 to Bobbie B. in New York
from a Harold W. asks that the Grapevine "withhold
publicity about our group that may occasion controversial
discussions of racial problems within A.A...." In
the same letter, Harold says, "We will be glad to
correspond with the colored group that is being organized
at Valdesta, Georgia." In the same vein, Bobbie B.
wrote Torrence S. the very next month that "we have
heard of another Negro Group started in Washington, D.C.
earlier this year...Would you care to correspond with them
and share experience?"
first town in Eastern Missouri outside of St.Louis to register
an A.A. group with G.S.O. was Columbia. The time was April
1942 and the place was the Elvira Building, with five people
attending. Five years later, the group had grown to 18 members
and was called The Wilson Club, changing its name the next
year to the Alanon Club and listing 31 members. And a small
Group #2 had been started. More groups were slowly added
over the years and the decades until, in 1985, Columbia
was a stronghold of A.A. in Eastern Missouri with 16 groups
and about 270 members. In nearby Mexico, Mo., after some
preliminary activity as far back as '43, a group was
started March 31, 1946. That single group has struggled
along with small membership, but has continued to meet regularly
and faithfully once a week until the present time.
City claims a lone member as far back as 1941, but its first
group met in 1945 with three members. Membership increased
to 30 in a single year, and to 60 by 1950. The greatest
period of growth was in the '70s, with six more groups
added. In 1985, Jefferson City listed about 120 members.
1945, A.A. members in St. Charles attended meetings in St.Louis,
but in that year they formed their own local group, eventually
called the Daniel Boone Group. A second group did not survive
until 1972, when The Three Legacies Group began. The greatest
growth occurred in the late '70s and early '80s,
and by 1985 St.Charles had nine groups with 361 members,
an answering service and its own monthly newsletter!
booklet, Golden Moments of Reflection, prepared by the Eastern
Missouri Area Archives, contains accounts of how A.A. began
and grew in other towns including Kennett, Poplar Bluff,
Eugene, Caindenton, Macon, Rolla, St.Clair, Kirksville,
Monroe City, Troy, Commerce, Cape Girardeau, Edina, Flat
River, Fulton, Warrenton, Rock Hill, Kahoka, DeSoto, Sikeston,
Perryville, Shelbyville, Washington, California, Steele,
Sullivan and Malden - which are omitted here only because
of space limitations. The booklet is available in the A.A.
Archives in New York.
A.A.'s 50th year, Eastern Missouri had 397 groups
with over 5,500 members.
Rock and Arkansas
Rock, Arkansas, saw its first A.A. meeting in May 1940 thereby
assuring itself a place in A.A. history as "the first
g roup formed solely by mail", i.e., by the Big Book
alone, though many others followed. But the events leading
up to that meeting began in the early '30s, when an
insurance salesman, Sterling C., was fired for drinking.
He moved to New Orleans where he drank again but also got
Richard C. Peabody's book, the. Common Sense of Drinking,
which advocated retraining one's mind and taking continuous
self-inventory. On this program, Sterling sobered up and
was given a job with his old company in Memphis if he stayed
sober. After six months, he slipped on an out-of-town trip—and
again later. Sterling decided to live up to his promise
when he went in, he found his boss had died the day before!
As a result, he had a spiritual
experience and never drank again.
C. returned to Little Rock to make amends (a part of Peabody's
program), and three and a half years later he received a
call from a local businessman asking him to help an alcoholic
employee, Harlan N. For six months, Sterling tried to help
Harlan, without much success. When the Liberty magazine
article appeared in September 1939, both men read it and
wrote to New York for a copy of the Big Book. It was sent
to Harlan, who was on a drunk at the time, so it was returned.
Shortly afterward, Sterling's boss, Foster Vineyard,
read in TIME magazine about Rockefeller's dinner for
Alcoholics Anonymous and told Sterling. This time, Sterling
wrote for the Big Book and received it. Next, Harlan, now
sober, Twelfth Stepped Glenn "Bud" G., who was
incarcerated in the "nut house" (i.e., State
Hospital) for his drinking. Bud read the Big Book three
times and became such a changed man that his psychiatrist,
Dr. Nick Hollis, was so impressed that he ordered a second
first meeting of the three men—Sterling C., Harlan
N., and Bud G.—as an A.A. group was in late May 1940
in the insurance agency office in the Wallace Bldg., Markham
and Main Streets. The group ran ads in the newspaper as
they continued to meet, and began to grow. Proceeding almost
entirely on their own, without experienced direction, the
Little Rock A.A.'s very early decided to screen prospects
to make sure they were serious, so they wouldn't waste
their time. The new man was asked four questions: 1. Are
you convinced you cannot handle your alcohol problem? 2.
Are you willing to let a group of fellows who had the same
problem prescribe a course of action? 3. Will you do anything
to eliminate alcohol from your life? 4. Do you believe in
a power bigger than yourself? If the prospect couldn't
answer yes to all four, he was told to come back when and
if he could.
of this grew an astonishingly rigid plan for new prospects
before they could be inducted into the group, credited to
Ed I. M., an attorney. The prospect was required to: read
the Big Book in three days; keep a 28-day journal; write
his case history; make time and money budgets; if employed,
take a two week leave of absence to devote full time to
the plan; and accomplish other assignments given to him
by his sponsor. The plan provided for an individual sponsor
for each newcomer and outlined the sponsorship methods that
had proved successful. And all this from a group less than
a year old! This became famous as the Little Rock approach
plan. And it worked for many people. But, predictably, it
also was controversial even within the group.
need for a more permanent home for the group was soon felt,
and Harlan's family offered a large cabin on Jennings
Lake. It was both a meeting place and a dormitory for new
prospects going through the approach program. Among these
were Mack H. and Max H. Members of the group included Newton
F., C.L. T., Fred L., soon joined by Bob M., Pat H., Julian
H., Henderson J. and Ladd M. Two nonalcoholics, Dr. Nick
Hollis and Judge Harper Harb, lent valuable support to the
group. In 1942 growth necessitated a move to a large room
at 214 ½ Louisiana. Macie H., the first woman member,
kept slipping and kept everyone busy. Other inductees at
this time included Buddy K., Jack E., Lee H., Bert C., Bill
M., George S. and Andy S. Drunks also came from elsewhere
in Arkansas to sober up and return to their own communities
to carry the message.
H. moved away from Little Rock, but three other women members
had joined the group. Then "Floozie" arrived—broke,
hungry and battered. Two of the women were assigned to work
with her, but she preferred male attention. After about
a week, word got out that "Floozie" was shacked
up with six of .the prospects over in a hotel room naked
and drunk. But that wasn't the worst of the news.
Three oldtimers were part of the orgy and were running the
bottles in from the liquor store. Even one of the sober
women members had joined the party! The scandal shook the
group to its foundations and resulted in a new rule: no
C., now director of the state publicity commission, was
in New York on business in the spring of 1943. He contacted
Bill W. and invited him and Lois to visit Little Rock, which
they did January 17-20, 1944. Meanwhile, the group moved
again to the Bathhurst Bldg. on West 2nd. Three years had
elapsed since Sterling and Harlan had received the Big Book,
and 24 individuals had a year of sobriety or more. Among
these, in addition to names previously mentioned, were Sam
K., Marvin W., Ed P., Hyder L. and Earl N.
and Lois' visit included sightseeing trips, a dinner
dance in the Skyway Room at the Lafayette Hotel and a big
meeting at the Robinson Auditorium at which Bill spoke.
For the prior two weeks, the local newspapers carried stories
of some of the A.A. members. The publicity worked beautifully,
for 1,500 people filled the auditorium for the Sunday meeting
- including a number of prospects seeking sobriety. One
of these was Frances P. When she was told they did not accept
women, she became all the more determined to join. She was
given the Big Book to read, but she continued to drink.
Frustrated, she went to Chick W.'s office and declared,
"chick, you have a woman member whether you like it
or not." As a result, although Frances was still banned
from the big Thursday meeting, they began to hold small
"squad" meetings at her house. One day, on impulse,
she asked Doyle W. for a list of members. She called on
them all personally to plead her case and was thus finally
accepted into the group. Ruth P. followed Frances. Macie
H.: returned to Little Rock. And Frances sponsored in Vi
D. and Myrtle T. The "no women" rule had been
Bill's visit, larger space was needed again. An ideal
place was found at 120 ½ Main Street, and all hands
were put to work cleaning, painting, plumbing and wiring
the new facilities, which still had sleeping accommodations
for prospects. For the next 13 years, "120 ½
Main" was the hub of A.A. activities in the state.
It was the "mother group" for many others, as
drunks from all over found their sobriety there and returned
home. And, although the rigid Little Rock approach plan
is no longer required, the emphasis is still on the newcomer.
first black A.A. member in Arkansas - and one of the first
in the Southwest - became sober in Little Rock in 1962.
Joe MCQ. had become a wandering "drunken black bum",
in his words. He lived and drank a while in Tennessee, then
in Kansas City, where he came in contact with the famous
candy salesman, Johnny P., founder of A.A. there. In the
early '60s, he found himself in Little Rock, still
in deep trouble with booze, at the peak of the civil rights
uprisings and in the town that was the very center of the
violence. "It was not a good time to be black and
drunk," says Joe mildly. He finally sought treatment
at the city's only rehab, where he was turned away
because of his color. So he ended up in the segregated portion
of the state mental institution, "a real snake pit."
To their eternal credit, some white A.A.'s were carrying
the message into this grim and terrible place, usually without
results. But when Joe McQ. heard (WHAT NAME?) he caught
fire—and the fire has never gone out.
was released to (NAME) and began to go to the all-white
A.A. meetings. Before his first one, his sponsor took him
aside and said, "Joe, you are welcome to come to the
meeting, but it would be better if you didn't stay
around for the coffee." Joe kept coming, in the face
of the prejudice. He studied the Big Book and the other
literature and absorbed everything he read or heard. His
lovely wife, LuAnn, joined Al-Anon over similar obstacles,
and supported her husband all the way. Besides being extremely
active and respected in A.A., Joe became active in the alcoholism
field, serving at one time on the Governor's Advisory
Board on Alcoholism, in which capacity he had responsibility
for the very treatment center which had refused him admittance!
He established and directed a facility of his own - part
detox, part half-way house, part club house and all completely
A.A.-oriented, with a strong leaning toward A.A. history
and Traditions. (A large hand-lettered sign in the common
room read, THERE IS BUT ONE GOD, AND TODAY YOU ARE NOT HIM.)
Begun in a spotlessly maintained former residence (WHAT
ADDRESS), it moved (WHEN) to a magnificent mansion (NAME
run by Joe, the center attracted white alcoholics from the
beginning. In (WHAT YEAR) Joe began conducting small Step
meetings on Sunday morning mainly for the residents of his
facility, perhaps a dozen people gathered around a table.
As word spread of the wisdom and spirituality of the discussions,
A.A.'s from around town began to attend, crowding
the room, then outgrowing it. Today, in the new quarters,
around 400 people gather every Sunday to hear Joe talk about
a Step. Joe McQ. was one of the speakers at the Sunday morning
spiritual meeting at the 50th Anniversary International
Convention in Montreal.
together with Charlie P. (Arkansas Delegate, Panel 31) also
began to put on small seminars discussing the Big Book.
Wesley P. of Pompano, Florida, (See Chaps. XX & XX)
conceived the idea that such a seminar lasting a full weekend
might be of interest to other A.A.'s around the country,
and so organized the first Big Book Seminar there in 1977
. It was sufficiently successful that it has continued to
be held in Florida annually ever since and has been taken
on the road to other locations around the country and even
abroad. The "Joe and Charlie Show", as it is
sometimes jocularly called, was also part of the program
at the Montreal Convention.
P., from Rogers, Arkansas, was elected Southwest Regional
Trustee in 1983. He provided outstanding leadership on the
General Service Board, serving as chairman of the A.A. World
Services Board and of the Nominating Committee, as well
as a member of the Ad Hoc committee on taking the Board's
inventory and the Finance & Budgetary and the International
Convention/A.A. Regional Forums committees.
1955 Arkansas had 56 groups with about 900 members. In A.A.'s
50th year—and Arkansas' 45th—Arkansas
reported 187 groups with a membership of 2,700.
Miles N., one of the founders of the Kansas City, Missouri,
group, started a small hospital in the basement of his home
in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1942, for the treatment of sick
alcoholics who needed medical aid in addition to A.A. He
called the tiny facility "The Shrine on the Hill."
(It was later transferred to its own building in another
location, where it is still in existence.) At the same time,
the doctor formed the first Kansas A.A. group, called "Kansas
City, Kansas #1." However, since it met at the hospital,
it was more usually known as "The Shrine on the Hill"
group. A group was founded in Topeka, the capital city,
about 60 miles from Kansas City, in '43. In Wichita,
near the center of the state, Sally E. wrote the New York
office in October 1944 for a copy of the Big Book to give
to her husband, Sid. At about the same time, Otis P. from
the Kansas City, Mo., group moved to Wichita and contacted
Sid, whose name he had obtained from New York. Together,
they started Wichita's first permanent A.A. group,
holding meetings in several hotels and in an art studio
in the Butts Bldg. An ad in the newspaper and publicity
on the radio helped bring in prospects. In 1948, Doc B.,
Heim R., Clint A., Bob W. and others started the Metropolitan
group, out of which came an Alano Club at 140 S. Hydraulic
St. The Downtown group and the Noal Club were organized
two years later. The Noal Club lost its license in 1969
due to gambling on the premises. Many Wichita and Arkansas
City alcoholics at this time came through Jim J.'s
ranch, a treatment facility in the latter town.
City, Topeka and Wichita became the centers for A.A. activity
in their surrounding communities and, indeed, in most of
Kansas. For example, Glen C. from Hays, farther west would
board a train and travel 500 miles round trip, two or three
times a month, to attend the "Kansas City #1"
group. In 1946, he grew tired of it and started the Oak
Street Group in Hays. This group, in turn, became the nucleus
for many other groups in other western and north - central
Kansas towns. By 1949, there were enough groups in scattered
locations that a member did not have to drive more than
80 miles to attend a meeting!
had 68 groups with a little over 1,200 members by 1955.
In A.A.'s 50th year, it had 308 groups with a membership
of over 6,300.
to Mike R. of Cordell (Delegate, Panel 15; Trustee, 1975-79),
A.A. in Oklahoma began with two men drying out in Oklahoma
City in the Coyne Campbell Hospital. This was a small, two-story
facility on Walnut Street in the seedy east side of town
for the treatment of mental disorders and nervous conditions,
operated by Dr. Coyne Cambell. While in there, they read
the Jack Alexander article which had been published in March;
and on their release, they sent a penny post card of inquiry
to the New York office. They received a reply saying there
were no meetings as yet in Oklahoma, but someone would get
in touch with them. That someone was Johnny P., the candy
salesman who founded A.A. in Kansas City—to whom the
New York office forwarded the card. When Johnny made his
next circuit, he carried the A.A. message to the two who
had written. They, in turn, contacted others and held the
first A.A. meeting of the Oklahoma City Group in late 1941.
the end of the year, the group listed 11 members and grew
at a healthy rate. In 1942, it had 25 members; in '44,
60. By June 1946, there were 200 members who had planned
and constructed a brick clubhouse with an auditorium seating
400, a dining room and kitchen and other amenities.
A.A. had spread to Tulsa. A young businessman there was
traveling 125 miles twice a week to attend A.A. meetings
in Oklahoma City. So he decided to start a luncheon meeting
in Tulsa in 1944 with the help of visiting A.A.'s
and two prospects - including Tulsa's chief of police.
Meetings were held for about a year in members' homes,
with the wives helping serve luncheon. The group was also
able to obtain radio and newspaper publicity, which helped
it grow. By 1945 there were 40 members and clubrooms had
been rented at 114 1/2 No. Denver Ave. The opening celebration
attracted 100 people, some from as far as Kansas City, Dallas
and Houston. In 1946, the group reported 70 members representing
"almost every conceivable business, profession and
trade." Tulsa's third anniversary was celebrated
by a crowd of 200 A.A.'s plus 100 family and friends
and the treasury was in embarrassingly good shape.
R. came into A.A. July 24, 1946, in the nearest group to
Cordell, which was in Clinton, 15 miles away. This was in
western Oklahoma, where "Altas may have already had
a group and the towns of Woodward, Lofton and Elk City followed
almost immediately. The Clinton group had about ten members
at that time, all men except one. The lady was Virginia
C., who lived—and is still living—in Elk City.
She and her husband, Paul, had been driving 130 miles to
the Oklahoma City meeting on Fridays and then driving three
hours back after the meeting, because Paul still had a job
managing a lumber yard. Then there was Dr. Bill T., who
had started out in successful practice but had become an
alcoholic in the Army in World War II. He had such severe
problems trying to re-establish his practice that his family
shipped him off to Coyne Campbell Hospital. But he couldn't
admit his alcoholism, so was given shock treatments. He
made another trip, again getting shock treatments before
he was called on by three members of A.A. Indignant, angry
and still full of denial, he sent them away. Dr. Bill was
released and was back in again in two weeks. This time he
wanted to talk with the AA.'s. Although he read the
Big Book which they left him, and started going to Oklahoma
city meetings, he continued to drink whiskey periodically
for two or three years before finally sobering up. Meanwhile,
he drove weekly to Oklahoma City, and at the meeting there
met Virginia and Paul C. and two or three others from the
western part of the state. Together they decided to start
a meeting in Clinton in February 1946. And that's
the meeting I came to about five months later."
people came up from Oklahoma City every week to help the
Clinton group get started," Mike continues. "They
took turns driving the 90 miles out and back to attend the
meeting and talk. There was a man called Fritz B., a lawyer,
who contributed so much to the program in the early days.
Another was Roy S., and also Lane P., Roy's right
arm. Lane had about two years' sobriety at the time;
Roy, four. Joe B., owner of a lumberyard and ice company.
About seven or eight people who came out regularly.
me tell you what it was like then. There was nothing you
could take and nothing anybody could do for you; you just
had to shake it off. I was dying. I had been drunk for ten
months and the withdrawal was rough. My wife had taken our
son and left, because I couldn't provide food for
the table. I had worked in a family business and the family
had run me off. I was unemployed and unemployable. So these
people told me what I would have to do if this program was
to work in my life. The first thing was, I had to make a
total commitment to the Fellowship. They explained to us
that some how, some way, we who were at that meeting had
been singled out to receive a new gift. And it was a gift
the world had been searching for, for over two thousand
years. And somehow we had been selected—by the grace
of a Higher Power. They said it was up to us whether we
wanted to accept this gift or not. But if we wanted to get
sober and stay sober and if this is to work in our life
- we've got to want to be sober more than anything
else in the world. When I heard this, I knew it was for
me. Because I was just a drunken burn and I hated myself.
So I made the commitment at that time. And I've never
had reason to doubt that decision in 40 years!
friend of mine in Denver, Jimmy W., told me years ago, 'I
just love your Oklahoma Fellowship down there—you've
got Desperation A.A. in Oklahoma!' And I think that's
what we had in those early days. First four and then five
of us in Cordell met three times a day in addition to our
weekly meeting in Clinton. We would meet at the coffeeshop
and talk about how we felt and our experiences. We were
trying so hard to help each other. And around September
'46, we started saying, we need a group here in Cordell.
I wasn't for it as much as the other fellows because
I was afraid of change. I knew I hadn't had a drink
in the Clinton group. But I went along. When we announced
our intentions, it caused a row in the Clinton group. But
it finally smoothed over and we began to meet in the Methodist
Church, though we kept going to Clinton, too." The
group was run off two years later because of agitation by
the W.C.T.U and began meeting in a large, new Presbyterian
Church building. It is still meeting in the same hall in
the same church 35 years later.
members in Cordell then tried to get other meetings started
in eight other towns within a 30-mile radius. They would
talk to the ministers, doctors and police to get a line
on prospects, who would then be invited to attend meetings
in Cordell or other western Oklahoma towns—or even
in Oklahoma City. Around 1958, the groups in Clinton, Cordell
and Elk City began holding tri-city meetings once a month,
which were open (all the local meetings were closed).
1950, Bill W. visited Oklahoma for the first time. Mike
R. recalls, "I went to the Kelly Club in Oklahoma
City and there in the middle of the room was Bill. About
five of us from home made for him and were talking with
him. Our Presbyterian minister who was with us asked, 'Mr.
W., I have a parishioner who drinks far too much, to the
point its causing everybody a problem. How can I help him?
He's an undertaker.' Bill stopped him right
there and said, 'We have more damn trouble with undertakers
than any other people.' And that broke up the room
"Birthday Plan" as it is known today was originally
called the Oklahoma Plan. It began with a member, Ted R.,
from Oklahoma City, who found his sobriety in the early
'50s and was grateful. He wanted to contribute something
to the Fellowship to express his gratitude. He hit on the
idea of contributing to G.S.O. a dollar for each year of
his sobriety on his A.A. birthday each year, not to exceed
ten dollars, ever. He got other members enthused over the
idea, which caught on in Oklahoma. Ted R. then turned the
idea over to the current Delegate, "Ab" A.,
from Tulsa, who took the idea to the Conference. It was
adopted and is in effect today as a suggested plan for an
individual to contribute regularly.
in Oklahoma grew early to number 58 groups with 900 members
by 1955. By 1985, the state had 321 groups with a membership
of over 4,200.
colorful early history of A.A. in the Lone Star State led
Bill W. to refer to it at the St.Louis Convention as "the
astonishing state of Texas." The story begins in Cleveland
in 1939, where a newspaperman, Larry J., had "drunk
himself into the gutter." Louis Seltzer, editor of
the Cleveland Press, remembered him and sent a search party
to find him, offering to pay for his hospital recovery.
They found him in freezing weather with no coat on, one
lung collapsed from earlier tuberculosis and the other with
a tube sticking out of it through his chest. At the sanatorium,
Larry slowly recovered from d.t.'s, malnutrition,
exposure and exhaustion. Told he would be better off where
the weather was warmer, he boarded a train for Houston with
a copy of Alcoholics Anonymous in hand upon reading it en
route, he had a spiritual experience and determined to try
to help alcoholics when he arrived.
sought out Allan C. Bartlett, editor of the Houston Press,
and after a two-hour talk, persuaded him to run a series
of articles on A.A. which Larry J. wrote anonymously. Impressed
by his creative brilliance, Bartlett hired him as an editorial
writer. The articles attracted the attention of Bishop Clinton
S. Quinn (Episcopal), who became an enthusiastic supporter
and immediately arranged for Larry to talk to meetings of
church officials in Houston and other towns in his diocese.
They also came to the attention of Bill W., who wrote Larry
a congratulatory letter from New York. And most importantly,
the articles attracted some alcoholics. One of these was
Roy Y. from San Antonio, who had recently sobered up in
Los Angeles A.A. Another was Ed H., a great help to Larry
in getting A.A. started, who was unable to stay sober himself.
first Houston A.A. meeting was held March 15, 1940, in a
room in the YWCA Bldg. The group continued to meet on Tuesdays
with as many as 25 attending—but often a different
25 each time! Ed H. and Roy Y. tried to educate ministers
and doctors without much success until they were referred
to Dr. David Wade at Galveston State Hospital. Dr. Wade
was to remain a good friend of A.A. Later, he and Ed H.
were to help found A.A. in Austin (see below). The Jack
Alexander article in March 1941 brought in many inquiries,
one of them a defrocked preacher, Howell S. and his beloved
wife Molly, who also attended the meetings. Another was
Ed F. who became particularly active in Twelfth Stepping
the flood of prospects, along with Ed H. Early members from
that time were:
"Bull" D., Earl D., Joe F., George P. (who later
helped carry A.A. to Albuquerque), and an enthusiastic and
energetic woman, Esther E. (who moved to Dallas and helped
start A.A. there as well as afterward in San Antonio). By
the end of '41, there were 85 members.
developed when a transplant from Baltimore A.A. told the
group that in the East the group elected a steering committee
which handled its affairs. Founder Larry J. had been running
the Houston group with something of an iron hand, so the
group decided to elect a steering committee. Larry, full
of resentment, pulled out of the group. Ed H. went with
him, "not because I thought he was right—I thought
he was wrong—but because he needed a friend."
Larry slipped and was hospitalized. Soon afterward, Ed H.
went back to drinking. But by this time, A.A. was firmly
rooted in Houston. Larry came back to the old group in 1943,
but died of his old ills later that year. Ed H. went into
the Navy, where he stayed drunk as much as he could. Roy
Y. went into the Army and was transferred to Tampa, Florida,
where he started an A.A. group. He remained sober the rest
of his life and was still active and well in 1985. Esther
E. took over as leader of the Houston group in 1942, and
Hortense L. succeeded her when she moved to Dallas. The
group met in the basement of the Ambassador Hotel in 1941.
During the war years it met in other places: the M.&
M. Building, Franklin St., Milam St., Dooley St., and finally
beginning in '46 at 3511 Travis St. where it remained.
early 1949, the majority of the Travis St. group broke away
to form the Montrose group. Among those that remained were
Ed H., Angus McL., Claire W., Anna D., Mildred C., and Icky
nonalcoholic churchman, Bishop Everett Jones (Episcopal),
was responsible for starting A.A. in San Antonio in 1941.
Having read the Jack Alexander article which mentioned Houston,
Bishop Jones phoned A.A. when in Houston for Lenton services.
He was met by a man who greeted him with, "I'm
George, an ex-drunk," and agreed to drive back to
San Antonio with him to meet with two of his alcoholic parishioners.
Unfortunately, George was not exactly "ex-"
because he got drunk before he could meet the prospects
and was sent back to Houston. The Bishop then sent one of
the men he was trying to help to Houston as a scout, to
attend A.A. meetings there and bring back the Big Book and
other literature, which he did. Thus Bishop Jones began
meeting weekly with Jack D. and Henry K. in his office.
Jack D. informed Ruth Hock at the New York office of the
new outpost of A.A. and told her of trying to help a man
already referred to him: "After several bad relapses,
we have had him sober for two weeks now, and last night
for the first time in three years, on his payday he took
his wife and mother to the movies!...This work pays out
the greatest dividends in self gratitude of anything I ever
heard of..." The Bishop got the San Antonio Light
to publish an article about A.A. and by 1942 the group had
12 members. It also had a visit from co-founder Dr. Bob
and Anne, whose son was stationed in San Antonio.
members of the group were scattered during World War II,
so the group dissolved - but Bishop Jones kept the faith.
Esther E. came down from Dallas in '43 to try to get
a group going, but couldn't stay long enough. She
returned the following year at the invitation of the Bishop,
and this time she was successful. The first real San Antonio
group began meeting in 1945 in an abandoned grocery store
at 4th and Taylor Streets. Two years later it moved to a
second floor room on West Commerce St. and eventually split
into the Downtown Group and the Sahara Club.
early history of A.A. in Ft.Worth is a triumph of spirituality
over wealth and of A.A. principles over the multiple problems
of Clubs. It began when George McL. wrote A.A. in New York
in 1941. He organized the first meeting on August 23, with
seven in attendance. By the end of the year, there were
12 members. Apparently that group didn't make it,
for we next hear of Ralph R., a railroad switchman and former
deputy sheriff, calling George McL. in '43 and meeting
at his house. In November, they were joined by Anne T.,
the socially prominent wife of a successful lawyer. She
wrote New York, "Good news. Ft.Worth is starting up
again." Ralph R. wrote ads in the Ft.Worth Star-Telegram
reading, "For problem drinkers who want to help themselves.
No charge. Write Alcoholics Anonymous, Box 671..."
Ralph is also credited with having written, "If you
want to drink, that's your business. If you want to
stop, that's our business." In '44, ten
members were meeting regularly in the downtown YMCA, with
Anne T. as secretary. By August '45, 57 members were
meeting at the First Presbyterian Annex.
in late '45, the group decided to start a Club, for which
they rented an old two-story red brick building at 612 W.
4th St. for $100 a month. Joe C., an advertising man, won
a contest for the name: The Harbor Club. Almost immediately,
gambling competed all too successfully with the A.A. meetings
held there. Daily poker games downstairs were for pots of
a hundred dollars or so; upstairs, pots were in the thousands.
And the winners always gave the Club a cut of the winnings.
Jack W., a professional con-man, who played in the upstairs
game, supplied the Club with slot machines which proved
to be an even greater bonanza. (Slot machines were legal
in those days.) Within a few months, the Club had a surplus
of $14,000, a huge sum then, so Ralph R. traveled to New
York to seek Bill's counsel. Bill suggested the Club be
incorporated separately from the group, with its membership
limited to A.A. members, which was finally done in '48.
By that time, it had nearly 300 members. Meanwhile, a beautiful
mansion had been purchased at 1008 Penn Street and had been
refurbished. Bought for $40,000; it was sold in 1953 for
$72,000. The Harbor Club then built a larger facility for
$100,000 with large meeting rooms for the A.A. groups, a
dining room, kitchen, pool table—and, of course, card
rooms. All this while, A.A. membership continued to grow.
Heavy gambling was banished in 1975, but nickel-&-dime
poker, gin rummy and bingo are still allowed; and more than
20 A.A. groups were meeting regularly on the premises.
there was a lone member in Dallas as early as 1941 and some
abortive efforts to start a group in the next two years,
the first Dallas group didn't really begin until the
peripatetic Esther E. moved there from Houston in May 1943.
The first meetings were held in members' homes, but
by 1945, the first organized group in Dallas was meeting
regularly at 912 1/2 Main St. That group, which was home
to countless alcoholics in the early days, spawned other
groups in every part of the city.
MORE ON DALLAS. PRESTON GRP. DAVID A. ETC.)
A.A. stemmed from the interest of Dr. David Wade, acquired
at Galveston State Hospital before his move to Austin in
1945. His friend Ed H. had returned from the Navy to Houston,
sober once more. There he met Ernest P., who was brought
to Houston from Austin to get the A.A. program. They decided
to return to Austin together and try to start a group there.
One of their first calls was from a Jack H. in the Austin
Hotel, drunk and in need of help. Ed called in Dr. Wade,
because Jack needed medical attention. Dr. Wade informed
them of two more persons to contact: Clarence L., who had
read of A.A. in a magazine article and wanted to quit drinking;
and Ryan P., who had sobered up in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Dr Wade brought them all together—Ed H., Ernest P.,
Clarence L, Ryan P., and a Jimmy M. from Dallas—and
these became the first Austin AA group. After gathering
a few times at Ed H.'s mother' s house, they began meeting
at the Drisskill Motel.
the Southwest Texas Area, these are the beginnings of A.A.
in some of the towns:
Gordon S., who had attended A.A. at Bill and Lois's
house in Brooklyn, had moved to Amarillo and was listed
as the A.A. contact in 1942. He was joined in 43 by Charles
H., formerly of the Oklahoma City group. The real start
of the famous Top O'Texas group was in February '46.
In September '46, the Hub of the Plains group was
registered. Members included Don B., Searcy W., Bill W.,
Truman M, Stewart B., Tate S. and others.
Spring. January '47, with four members.
November '46. Also in '46: LaMesa, Sweetwater,
March '58, with 11 members. Five years later, it had
four groups with 100 members.
Paso. In 1944, Gene H., an A.A. member from Indianapolis,
retired on disability to El Paso. He enlisted the help of
Bill H. from the local newspaper to do a series of articles
on A.A. As a result, the first meeting of the El Paso group
was held on September 11, 1944, with four men and one woman.
As the group expanded, it included members from Juarez,
Mexico; and its members helped start meetings in Las Cruces
and Silver City, New Mexico. In 1985, there were 61 groups
listed, a number of them Hispanic groups.
groups in West Texas owe their start to Macon F. of Coleman.
He found his sobriety and the A.A. way of life in Dallas
and carried it back in 1944. In East Texas, Doc W. was a
loner in Longview when he was contacted by Tommy T., Scotty
M. and Claude H. of Nacogdoches. This trio also recruited
a Dr. B. in Palestine and together with Doc W. held the
first East Texas A.A. meeting in Nacogdoches in May 1943.
Two months later, groups were operating in Longview and
1955, Texas boasted 216 groups in all, with 735 members.
As A.A. grew there, the structure was composed of four areas
in the four quadrants of the state. And in A.A.'s
50th year, Texas had a total of 1,213 registered groups
with a membership of 30,500.
psychiatrist at Mt.Airy Sanitarium in Denver, Dr. C.S. Bluemel,
wrote New York for a copy of the newly published Big Book
in July 1939. Upon receiving it, he wrote a most favorable
review for a bulletin distributed to 5,000 doctors. In November
of that year, a Mortimer J. from Denver wired the New York
office for help and was referred to Dr. Bluemel. A few months
later, The Rocky Mountain News ran an article on A.A., generating
a number of calls for help which were referred to Mort J.
Unfortunately, he took off almost immediately on the prolonged
traveling binge which was to end with Mort J. 's establishing
A.A. in Los Angeles.
a year later, after publication of the Jack Alexander article,
a Denver alcoholic, Venard F., went to Houston, Texas, to
observe the working of the A.A. group there. Returning with
the Big Book and pamphlets, he got an article published
in the local paper giving his P.O. Box number. And on August
19, 1941, the first A.A. meeting in Denver was held at the
home of Sarah McP., with 11 people in attendance. A month
later, with 16 members, they moved to the Cosmopolitan Hotel.
Two factions threatened to split the group over whether
or not newcomers should be required to follow rigid rules
before being allowed to join. The dispute solved itself
when Sarah McP. moved to Washington, D.C., and Venard F.
stepped down as a group leader; but it did lead directly
to the formation of a Denver Central Committee consisting
of Hugh MC.A., Art D., Ernie R. and Harold 0.
group began meeting at its first "permanent"
home at 1608 Broadway in February '44. A South Denver
group formed about the same time, followed by other small
groups so that estimated citywide membership in April '45
was between 100 and 250, depending on who was estimating.
In '49, Group #1 moved to their own building, a clubhouse
at 1311 York St. The York Street Club found itself at the
center of controversy from its earliest days to the present.
Files at G.S.O. reveal heated objections to solicitation
of funds from outside the Fellowship—even from private
companies—for funds to purchase the building. Further
correspondence over the years deals with the Club allegedly
preventing A.A.'s from attending meetings on the premises
unless they were dues-paying club-members, and alleged misuse
of meeting collections for Club purposes. Perhaps the greatest
furor arose, understandably, when a Denver paper headlined
the manager of the Club by full name, identifying him with
A.A. as he testified at a public hearing on impending anti-gambling
legislation, in which he defended gambling! The individual
involved blamed the press for the Traditions violations,
but that did not seem to mollify indignant local A.A. members.
W. and Lois paid a visit to Denver A.A. on October 26-29,
1943, and Bill spoke at a banquet at the YMCA. A Denver
A.A. newsletter, "Alky Ally," was published
monthly from '47 to the mid-'60s. From June
'67 to the present, the Denver central Committee has
published "The Last Drop", another monthly newsletter.
The groups grew slowly during the '50s, but virtually
exploded in the decades of the '60s and '70s.
The growth was given a significant boost when the 40th Anniversary
International Convention was held in Denver in July 1975.
1955, Colorado had only 54 groups with about 1,800 members.
By 1985, the groups numbered 522 with a membership of nearly
D. of Clovis, New Mexico, traveled to Los Angeles in 1942
to find sobriety in A.A., and then returned home. In 1945,
he met Pete A. who ran the Hotel Clovis gift shop. Pete's
daughter Betty had met Bob Smith, only son of A.A.'s
co-founder, Dr. Bob, when he was flying B-29 bombers at
Clovis Air Base. They married and moved to Akron. Betty
had recently sent her father a copy of the Big Book, which
he showed to Robert D. They vowed that as long as they lived
there would be a weekly A.A. meeting in Clovis.
formed its first group at about the same time, registered
by Leo B.
in the mid-'40's Josephine M. in Roswell was
hospitalized. While there, her husband obtained a copy of
the Big Book and gave it to her. When she got out, she sought
other alcoholics and started the Roswell group. They met
at Josephine's home in the beginning, then moved to
the Chamber of Commerce building and later to a cafe owned
by one of the members.
began in Almagordo when an alcoholic named Rowena visited
her friends, Bernard and Robbie L., in Lovington in an attempt
to get sober. Bernard was in A.A., attending meetings in
nearby Hobbs. When they took Rowena home to Almagordo, Bernard
went into a barbershop to get a shave. The barber whispered
in his ear, wasn't Bernard an A.A. from Hobbs? The
barber had attended some meetings in Hobbs and missed having
any in his hometown. Bernard was delighted to put Rowena
in touch with him, and together they started the Almagordo
MORE RECENT INFORMATION ON NEW MEXICO)
1955, New Mexico had 38 groups with 761 members. In 1985,
it had 218 with over 3,200 members.
officer Steve M., who had recently attained sobriety in
A.A. in Washington, D.C., came to Atlanta, Georgia, in June
1941. Realizing that to stay sober, he had to talk to other
alcoholics, he rented a Post Office box (A.A. in Atlanta
still has the same P.O. box today!) and put an ad in a local
newspaper. A defrocked minister—Sam D., answered the
ad—and then sat in the post office the next day to
see who picked up the mail from that box. Thus the two men
met. They discovered that each knew another alcoholic who
might want to quit drinking. A few days later, they held
the first meeting of A.A. in Georgia at Steve's apartment
on the Army base, sitting on the still-unopened packing
cartons containing his household goods. Present were Steve,
the Army officer; Sam, the former minister; a real estate
agent; and a dentist.
a few more came in, and the group began meeting at the Robert
Fulton Hotel. By '42, a clubroom was obtained which
was kept open seven days a week, with a closed meeting on
Tuesday and an open meeting on Friday.
was common elsewhere in the country in those days, families
attended the meetings and social events were an important
part of the recovery. Four well-known newspaper columnists
mentioned the group from time to time and this welcome public
recognition brought still more growth. The club, which was
incorporated in '46 as the Atalan Society, moved several
more times, causing some dissension, but the Fellowship
continued to flourish.
D., who came to A.A. in Atlanta in 1943 but had her last
drink July 4, 1945, said she was the fourth woman—but
she remained to become the longest sober, the first female
Delegate (serving on Panel 2, and perhaps the best known
and most active Atlanta member until her death in 1980).
Neely said a Mrs. D. was the first woman. "She always
ordered a beer and poured paregoric into it—that was
her drink! She ended up in Milledgeville Hospital, where
she heard about Bert F. So she called him up again and again,
but each time got his mother, who kept giving her the runaround.
About the third call, Mrs. F. said, 'What did you
want to see Bert about?' Mrs. D. said, 'I'm
an alcoholic and I wanted to talk to him about Alcoholics
Anonymous.' And Bert's mother said, 'Won't
do no good. A.A. don't have no luck with the women.'
But Mrs. D. didn't stop there and she came in anyway."
K., who came in in December 1952, tells of one of the traumatic
moves: "In 1953 the meetings moved from 522 West Peachtree—a
big, beautiful facility which was going broke—to a
place down on Walton Street. I thought, it sure was fine
while it lasted, but now the whole thing is going to fall
flat on its face, and there won't be any more A.A.
But some of the fellows—Fred N., Ed H., and Joe H.—told
me they had found this place they could afford, down on
Walton, and said come see it. Well, if you've ever
seen a dirty, broken-down place, that was it. The ceiling
was hanging halfway to the floor, there was an inch of dust
all over, the walls were terrible, there was no toilet.
But a bunch of the folks got together and worked around
the clock and straightened that place up so they didn't
skip a meeting. That was a tremendous inspiration to me,
because no one would ever do anything like this unless they
were serious about it. So I stayed in."
first neighborhood group, away from downtown, was the West
End group in 1947. The Buckhead group, an offshoot of the
original downtown group, started about 1952. Joe P., who
joined A.A. in Fall River, Massachusetts, at the age of
27 March 1, 1949, moved to Atlanta with his wife and four
(soon to be five) children in 1953. "I believe there
were four and possibly five groups in greater Atlanta when
we came here. There was the Buckhead group that I went to,
there was a group out in the west end called the Crosstown
where I used to go Friday nights, there was the Northeast
group, and of course the downtown group." Joe P.,
a frequent speaker at conferences and conventions, entered
A.A. service in 1975 as a result of attending a Regional
Forum in Atlanta and eventually served as Deleqate on Panel
30 and Regional Trustee beginning in 1985.
R., another past Delegate (Panel 10) also went to his first
meeting at the Buckhead group in September 1954. "So
I wouldn't have to go so far, I started the Skylane
group the next year, and it's still going. Groups
started all over Atlanta in the '50s and even more
in the '60s. In '55, the Tri-City group was
started. In January '56, the Ansley group. And so
on." Joe H., another alcoholic whose first A.A. meeting
was Buckhead in 1957, recalls some of the other people active
in Atlanta at that time: Andy A., Rita H., Hal H., Gracen
W., Bob C., Chris F., and John F.
outside Atlanta, there were groups in Savannah, Macon, Albany,
Waycross and Dublin by 1948. Augusta began a year later,
and Washington a year after that. In 1953, there were enough
groups in Georgia to hold a State A.A. Convention, in Augusta.
By 1955, Georgia had a total of 52 groups with nearly 1,000
members. In A.A.'s 50th year, it had 542 groups with
an estimated membership of well over 10,000.
was some A.A. activity in Tennessee quite early, but no
viable groups until 1944-45. In Knoxville, Bern H. wrote
the New York office in October 1939, after reading the Liberty
magazine article. He followed up by going to New York in
person for help. Returning to Knoxville in November, he
started to work with other drunks. The first organized meeting
was held in April 1941, but it was almost inactive by '43.
It started up again a year later and by August '45
was going solidly with 10 members.
Memphis, there were two lone members, Clark B. and his wife,
in May 1941. They received inquiries referred to them and
helped drunks get sober, but it was not until April 28,
1944 that an A.A. member who had moved to Memphis, Wally
H., sparked the locals into a cohesive group. Present at
the first meeting, besides Wally and the Clark B.'s,
were Warren C., Harry H., and Julian B. They were soon joined
by Maryann H., Charlie L., Oscar M. and Howard U. And by
the end of '45, there were 150 members! They started
a Sunday morning breakfast meeting on the mezzanine of Britling's
Cafeteria in February and soon afterward a second group
called Crosstown split off from the original group.
saw its first meeting on November 6, 1943, with six in attendance.
The group grew slowly but steadily, with 28 members at the
end of '44 and 42 members in mid-'45. In the
northeastern part of Tennessee, Kingsport had its first
meeting on September 3, 1945. "Boots" D., after
being Twelfth Stepped by Jack C. from Knoxville, was inspired
by meeting Bill W. at the first Southeastern Regional Convention
in Birmingham. Returning home, "Boots" started
the first Kingsport group along with Annette T., wife of
a prominent businessman in nearby Bristol. Eight people
were present at the first meeting. "Boots" had
his home phone number listed under A.A. and continued active.
In 1985, with 39 years' sobriety, he was proud to
report five groups in Kingsport.
1941 Cameron F. wrote the New York office from Nashville
asking for help. Although Cameron became sober and, through
a lot of Twelfth Step work, built the group up to seven,
most of them went into the Service and the group was defunct
a year later. December 1944 the office received a letter
from "H.B." C. in Nashville saying, "I'm
sure you will be glad to know...November 27th, with the
help of Dr. George Little who is visiting our city, we were
able to organize a Nashville chapter of A.A. with four members
and some very good prospects..." Within a year, there
were about 40 members and a big public meeting was held
with favorable newspaper publicity. Clubrooms were opened
in '49 and a Group #2 was organized.
and Tullahoma meetings began in 1954; Winchester in '49.
The Clinton group, with a checkered history, traces its
beginnings to '49, when James S., an automobile salesman,
came to Rev. Arthur Jones, a nonalcoholic, for help with
his drinking problem. In 1952, Rev. Jones met another James
S. on the street in Clinton and learned that he had just
returned from Milwaukee where he had attended A.A. The minister
immediately enlisted his aid in forming a group in Clinton,
which began meeting in the church study. Nothing much happened
until Bill P., sober three years in Knoxville A.A., began
to take an active part. He moved the meeting to its own
space and breathed life into the group so that when he organized
a big "eatin' meetin'" in 1958,
200 attended. He also caused a stir by rising to his feet
in a Methodist Church service to 'preach" a
soaring "sermon" to the assembled congregation
on the grace of God in A.A. Soon afterward, Bill P. moved
to Florida, and the Clinton group began to fall apart. It
folded completely in 1959 and remained dormant for 22 years!
L., a dedicated member of the Knoxville Northside group
with eight years' sobriety, reactivated the group
in Clinton in 1980 with the help of Harlan L. and Roger
S. Their first meeting was at the Parish House of St. Therese
Catholic Church, So. Main Street. One person present was
Eugene H., a lawyer, who had attended the last meeting when
the group had folded 22 years before. The group grew rapidly
and in October had to find larger quarters at the First
Baptist Church. Buford L. was elected Delegate from the
state of Tennessee. (By coincidence, Bill P., now active
in A.A. in North Florida, was elected Delegate from that
area at the same time.)
1955, Tennessee had 41 groups with 735 members. In 1985,
it had 310 groups with over 4,700 members.
first A.A. contact in Florida was probably a loner in Daytona
Beach who first wrote the New York office in November 1939.
Then in 1940 Frank P., a member from New York living in
Miami, became the A.A. contact there. And the wife of Joe
T. wrote to New York concerning her alcoholic husband. Separately,
a Roger C. also wrote New York and was put in touch with
Joe T., and both of them were in touch with Frank P. With
the appearance of two new recruits, Charlie C. and Carl
C., in December, organized meetings in Miami got under way.
A series of articles on A.A. in the newspaper helped bring
in others. A group was formally organized in April 1941.
By July, it had ten members. In August 1942, Bill W. visited
Miami and reported a membership of 45 with two meetings
a week. Bill and Lois W. visited again in May '44.
A club and an intergroup were going by 1946. New groups
at that time included Miami Beach, Northside, Coral Way
group began in Ft. Lauderdale in '44 by Buck B. In
'45, more groups elsewhere in the state were started:
Pensacola, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Lake Worth and Gainesville.
The following year new groups appeared in Cocoa, Delray
Beach, Ft.Myers, Hollywood, Lake Wales and Ocala.
group in Lake Worth was named the Palm Beach county group.
Stan L. and Hazel 0. from West Palm Beach attended the group
and in 1947 a meeting for women began in May in Palm Beach.
The West Palm Beach group held its first meeting on August
5, at the odd Fellows Hall. They ran an ad in the classified
section of the Palm Beach Post and Times. In 1949, clubrooms
were opened. December 1940 also saw the beginning of A.A.
Junius C., who had apparently gotten sober in California
through the Big Book, was transferred to the Jacksonville
Naval Air Station. He went looking for a prospect that December
and found Tom S.—who was to become a real pioneer
in A.A. service, Delegate from North Florida on Panel 1,
Regional Trustee 1962-66, and chairman of the oldtirners'
committee that led to the establishing of the A.A. Archives.
Tom rounded up five of his drinking cronies—among
them, Charlie P., Bruce H. and Hugh C.—and they met
at his house for the first A.A. meeting in Jacksonville.
In April '41, Tom persuaded the Jacksonville Journal
to publish an article on A.A.
H. had even more ambitious plans. He started a radio program
on A.A. sponsored by the Gulf Life Insurance Co. It was
a huge success, and Bruce approached the Prudential Life
Insurance Co. with the idea of sponsoring it nationwide.
This helped bring Bill W. down for a visit in early 1942,
during which he and Tom S. were able to convince Bruce of
the error of his ways. Twenty-five people attended a dinner
given in Bill's honor at the Seminole Hotel.
thrived in Jacksonville until there are now 60 groups in
and around the city, holding well over a hundred meetings
a week. Tom S. remained active and was still working with
newcomers at the time of his death in 1982 with over 41
years of continuous sobriety.
the spring of 1942, a William D., who had gotten sober in
A.A. in Chicago, was transferred to Tampa, Florida, and
wanted to start a group. His wife, Helen, wrote the New
York office, and the D.'s were listed as a Tampa contact.
Helen also ran an ad in the local paper. Unfortunately,
Bill D. soon died of pneumonia. Tampa's first A.A.
meeting was held November 1943 through the efforts of a
nonalcoholic pharmacist, Dr. J.K. R. The pharmacist's
brother, Ralph R., who lived in Gainesville, Georgia, had
found sobriety in Atlanta A.A. Dr. R. attended Atlanta A.A.
with him several times, becoming so enthusiastic about what
he saw that he sent to the New York office for literature.
He and, his brother returned to Jacksonville to hold the
first meeting there.
Y. arrived a month later. This was the same Roy Y. who had
sobered up in Texas, helped get the first A.A. group going
in Los Angeles, and lived the A.A. program as a lone member
while stationed in Alaska. Now Roy was stationed at Drew
Field, an Army Air Corps base in Tampa. Upon contacting
Dr. R., Roy immediately began work on prospects. One name
was a Jack D., who, when contacted, replied, "I don't
need your program, but I'll tell you the name of a
man who does—badly!" The name was that of Ernest
K. who became Roy's first recruit. The two of them
formed the nucleus of A.A. in Tampa. In January '44
they acquired their first woman member, Alleen E., and by
April they had ten members in the group and a permanent
meeting place at Frankfurt and Tyler streets. A letter to
the New York office said, in part, "Roy is like an
anxious hen with a flock of awkward chicks." Roy secured
the support of the city's leading psychiatrist, who
has helpful in reaching the rest of the medical profession.
In May, Bill and Lois W. paid a three-day visit to Tampa
and spoke at an open meeting at the Chamber of Commerce
E. and wife, an A.A. couple from East Orange, New Jersey,
who had met Bill W., moved to Orlando in 1944. There they
were put in touch with Dave A., who was looking for help.
After meeting with the E.'s several times, Dave wrote
to New York asking how properly to conduct an A.A. meeting.
The group grew slowly. Sometimes Dave A. and Ernie 7., from
Winter Park, were alone. But by '46, the group was
large enough to have a meeting place of its own in an office
building where the room was reached by climbing 30 steep
steps. The members joked, "If you made the steps,
you will probably make the program." A second group
was started in 1952 at the Lamar Hotel by the owners, Larry
and Jackie K. Larry kept one room at the hotel for drying
out newcomers. As he was crippled and had difficulty mounting
the famous steps, he started to hold meetings at the hotel.
Louise A. remembers that in the late '40's and
early 50's, it was not unusual for some of the Orlando
members to drive 60 miles to Daytona Beach, 80 miles to
Tampa, or even 150 miles to Jacksonville to attend A.A.
meetings or gatherings - and that was before Interstate
Orlando A.A. members tell of Mac, a defrocked Episcopalian
priest, who was hired as full-time secretary at the Intergroup
office. A compelling speaker, he would rouse the audience
with, "I found God to save my soul, but it was A.A.
that saved my ass." Once, on a radio show, he fielded
call-in questions for four straight hours with great communicating
skill. His long counseling sessions were popular—particularly
with young women. Then one day, Mac skipped town, leaving
the young women sadder but wiser, the treasury about $400
poorer thanks to a forged check, and the Intergroup without
its office machines. "Mac was such a good con artist,
many of us couldn't believe he was a phony,"
says one of the members. Word went out to other Intergroup
offices to beware. (Years later Mac turned up in Hyannis,
Massachusetts, as a drug and family counselor at project
HELP, using an assumed name. Confronted with his Orlando
crime, he claimed protection under the statute of limitations.)
and Joseph H. have a special place in Orlando A.A. history.
As a pilot in the Air Force, Joseph traveled worldwide and
tells poignant stories of A.A. encounters in Labrador, Japan,
Germany and elsewhere. The H. 's moved to Orlando
in 1969 and began holding Traditions sessions in their home.
Each monthly session was a three - to four - hour discussion
of one Tradition with a review session at the end of twelve
months. The meetings were still being held 16 years later,
but on a weekly basis. The H's also attempted to carry
the A.A. message into the Black community, through talks
to Black church groups.
now has over 40 groups with about 100 meetings a week.
South Florida, the South Miami group was founded in 1952.
The Arcadia group began in '50. The Islamorado group
on the Upper Keys was founded in '54 by Eddie S.,
who had a real estate office near U.S.1 where A.A.s from
Miami would stop for coffee on their way south. As the group
grew, it moved to the Methodist Church annex. In '58
the members who lived farther north broke away to form the
Upper Keys group which eventually met at the Coral Isle
Church on Plantation Key. The Key West Fellowship group
began in June '69. A women's group, called the
Ocean group, was started in '78 when some women from
other groups took a meeting to the home of Mavis B., who
had been injured in an auto accident.
A.A. has always benefited from the influx of sober members
from other parts of the country as they migrated to the
sun belt. Just as the state has been one of the fastest
growing in population, so has A.A. in the state. In 1955,
Florida had 128 groups with about 2,400 members. In 1985,
it reported 1,363 groups and its estimated A.A. membership
had climbed to 22,230!
came to Kentucky early in 1941. Jim McC. , a member of the
Indianapolis group, was transferred to Louisville. For his
own sobriety, he began contacting other alcoholics, and
in June '41, five men and one woman met at the YMCA
to form the first Louisville group. They met weekly at a
tavern where they would have dinner and share their problems
and experience. Jim McC. succeeded in getting a full-page
spread on A.A. in the Sunday Courier-Journal.
group did not have a regular meeting place or schedule for
the first several months. They would meet on a street corner
almost every evening and go out on Twelfth Step calls. As
they grew, they found a meeting place in November in the
Louisville Dairies building, where they remained for a number
of years. The wives became active and were helpful in contacting
the wives of prospects. A second feature article appeared
in the Courier in June '42. And a visit by Bill W.
in March '43 sparked some real growth. Neighborhood
groups were formed, and a steering committee was set up
to coordinate the activities citywide. The Token Club opened
in '47. By '53, there were 15 groups in Louisville,
including a Black group.
in Kentucky, A.A. came to Mayfield in '43, and in
'46 to Lexington, Fulton and Paducah. In 1955 the
state had 59 groups with 850 members. In 1985 Kentucky had
357 groups reporting 5,369 members.
the spring of 1940, Ted C. from Richmond, Virginia, was
undergoing treatment at Rockland State Hospital in New York—"the
first [hospital in the East) to enter into full scale cooperation
with A.A." So the New York office of A.A., learning
that Ted C. was returning to Richmond with a new business
connection, asked him to serve as the A.A. contact there.
One of the first referrals was Mcchee B., who was helped
by Ted. The two men now hoped to start a group. The first
A.A. meeting in Virginia was held June 6, 1940 at McChee's
apartment with 12 present. However, as Bill W. later recalled,
they "believed in getting away from their wives and
drinking only beer." It didn't work, and the
group fell apart almost immediately.
following year, Jack W. started a new Richmond group with
five members and a more orthodox approach to A.A. In '44,
Jack reported 20 regular members meeting at the William
Byrd Hotel. The group held its first public meeting in August
'45 which grew a large crowd. Spacious clubrooms on
Grace Street were opened in '46. By '48, the
group reported 82 members; by '50, 250 members.
in Virginia, a group was begun in North Arlington in 1943,
which was the parent group for others in Arlington. The
first meeting in Virginia Beach was held in December '46.
In the same period, the Fellowship spread to Norfolk and
Warsaw, and later to all parts of the state.
MORE ON VIRGINIA HERE?)
were 79 groups with 1,754 members in Virginia in 1955. In
A.A.'s 50th Anniversary year, Virginia had 797 groups
and nearly 15,000 members.
was the site of the first A.A. meeting in West Virginia
in March 1942, with three members: "W.T." S.,
the secretary; George S.; and Louis J. Six months later,
the group had doubled in size and was meeting at W.T.'s
office. During the next three months, the group grew to
12, then 16, then 29 members. This included A.A.'s
who had been active in Cleveland, New York, Cincinnati,
Zanesville (Ohio) and Pittsburgh before moving to Charleston.
W. paid a visit in March '43, and clubrooms were established
in '44. By June of that year, there were 71 members,
and in August a women's group began with eight members.
was only three months behind Charleston in forming its first
group with two members and one prospect. By January, '43,
it had grown to ten members and was meeting at the Stratford
Hotel on Saturday nights. Growth continued and in April
'45 a second group was formed in North Parkersburg
with five members.
1943 World Directory indicates a group had started in Wheeling,
which reported 17 members in '48. A Fairmont group
began in October '46 with 15. Virginia H. was one
of the organizers. When a second group was formed in '53,
meeting on Monday night, the original group called itself
the Friday Night group. And a third group, the Saturday
Night, was added in '66. By 1955 West Virginia had
49 groups with nearly 700 members. And in 1985 it had 193
groups with over 2,000 members.
in North Carolina began not in a major city but in the town
of Shelby in the western part of the state. The reason was
that a Shelby physician, Dr. Tom Mitchell, was working with
drug addicts and alcoholics. In early 1941 he met Dave R.,
a recently arrived sober member of A.A. from New Jersey.
The two of them started an A.A. group in June.
year later, a group started in Charlotte and soon attracted
members from surrounding towns. Later in '42, groups
were organized in Burlington and Fayetteville. Asheville
started with 12 members in the summer of '44, and
in '45 new groups were formed in Gastonia, Winston-Salem
and Durham. Greensboro began in June '46.
Hendersonville group held its first meeting in July 1945
in a judge's office in the Northwestern Bank Building.
The charter members were a corporate attorney, a gamecock
fighter, a bondsman, a prominent businessman and "a
destitute bum, Smiley M." After recovering in A.A.,
Smiley M. rose to become one of the most prominent and respected
business leaders in Henderson County. He also brought the
A.A. message to hundreds of alcoholics in the western part
of the state.
were important gathering places for A.A.'s in the
early days in North Carolina. Shelby, by 1945, boasted quarters
in an uptown hotel a reading room, piano, radio, pool table
and a meeting room with seating for 125. The Asheville group
had 60 members when they opened their clubrooms in '48,
which included a spacious lounge, meeting rooms, a coffee
bar, a pool table and two bowling alleys!
on September 16-18, 1946, hosted the Southeast Regional
Convention, "the largest A.A. crowd assembled in the
South" up to that time.
MORE ON N.C. SINCE 1940's! CHK DAVE COOKE &
HAL HARLEY FOR NAMES OF SPECIAL PEOPLE)
to a number of unusually energetic and dedicated A.A. leaders
and a solid service structure, A.A. spread and grew in North
Carolina at a faster rate than some other areas in the Southeast.
By 1955, there were 104 groups in the state with over 2,000
members. And in A.A.'s 50th year, it reported 542
groups with a membership of over 8,500.
first A.A. group in Alabama was formed in Mobile in 1944
by Dick C. (described as dapper, energetic and a good story
teller) and Tom D. An early member was Jo D., who became
very active in statewide A.A. service and was Delegate on
Panel 13. In July '46, Ensley, Alabama, saw the first
meeting of the Western group, which became a parent group
for others in the area. The first meeting in Bessemer was
in February '49 in the office of Ed L. The founders,
from the Western group or the Five Points group, included
Raleigh R., Shorty R., Ben L. and Clover H. Elsewhere in
the state, the Telladaga group began in '48.
MORE ON ALABAMA?)
43 groups and 1,155 members in 1955, Alabama grew to 242
groups with about 3,500 members in 1985.
A.A.'s in New Orleans called Steve G. "the man
with the book," because he sobered up on the Big Book
which he had given by a woman who had ordered it for her
son. When she was unable to interest her son, she thought
of Steve, who was the first solid member in the Crescent
had been earlier stirrings. Daniel P.'s sister wrote
New York in May 1940 for help for her brother, and even
visited A.A.'s service office there. Meanwhile, Daniel
had received a letter from his friend Larry J. in Houston,
telling him of Larry's recovery. He was also contacted
by the ubiquitous Irwin M., traveling salesman and ambassador
for A.A. Daniel was impressed, but didn't stay sober.
June 1942, Irwin wrote that there were three sober A.A.'s
in the city: Albert B., Bruce L. and Alec J. By the end
of that year, Steve C. had become sober and was looking
for alcoholics to help. He was joined in February 1943 by
Wally H., an A.A. from the Chicago group, and Irwin M. gave
them encouragement and put them in touch with his contacts.
The first organized A.A. meeting in New Orleans was held
in March 1943 in the boardroom of the Chamber of Commerce.
There were six members present, and an ad in the newspaper
was expected to bring more inquiries.
May, Wally, the secretary, wrote on a letterhead with the
group address that ten members were attending their Tuesday
meetings and that Noel E. and Sam T. were doing a particularly
good job. In September he reported progress in cooperating
with city jails and hospitals. In October, there were 14
members; in November, 17. In December, Lefty H. moved to
New Orleans and "gave the group a shot in the arm."
And in January 1944, Bill and Lois W. paid the new group
was established now, and grew steadily. In 1944, the group
began holding two meetings a week. The following year, there
were 45 active members and three meetings weekly. Clubrooms
were opened at 510 Queens and the crescent Building. By
April '45, 75 members were reported, with more coming in
all the time. There were six meetings a week by '47, with
an all-groups open meeting on Tuesday nights. And by mid-July
'48, new clubrooms had opened at 821 1/2 Poydras St. and
membership in New Orleans had reached 400.
the capital city of Baton Rouge on an autumn day in 1944,
while waiting for the kickoff of a football game, Rupert
P. started talking to a fellow member of Governor Jimmie
Davis's staff, Jack Meredith, about his (Rupert's)
drinking problem. Although he had been dry several months
at the time, he confessed he was prone to periods of drinking
himself into exhaustion "In order to work."
Jack introduced Rupert to Pat O'B. Seeking privacy,
they talked in the Governor's office, Rupert in the
Governor's chair. Pat took Rupert by his house and
loaned him a copy of the Big Book. Rupert p. skipped the
football game.(and the pint of whiskey he was planning to
drink at it) and read the book until two a.m. A few days
later, Pat and Rupert talked of starting a group. A former
newspaperman, Rupert wrote a story for the local papers
announcing an A.A. meeting. Besides the two founders, five
men showed up at Pat's apartment for the meeting the
beginning of the Baton Rouge group.
C., who had sobered up in New Orleans, decided in May '44
to form a group in Shreveport. He ran a classified ad in
the local paper, which brought "a handful of problem
drinkers" to the first meeting of what became the
Highland group. "On occasion, no one attended scheduled
meetings except Ed, who sat alone and prayed," but
the group eventually caught on and grew.
the Houxna/Thibodeaux area, Lee J. heard a radio talk about
Alcoholics Anonymous by Marty M. and immediately contact
with the New Orleans group. In April '47 he organized
the first meeting in Houma. In more recent times, Houma
has become known as the site of the Bayouland Jamboree,
an A.A. event under the leadership of "Cajun Joe"
R. drawing several hundred annually.
A.A. spread throughout the state, the Monroe group was formed
in '46 by Dr A.H. Serex, nonalcoholic pastor of the
First Methodist Church. The same year, A.A. was brought
to Bastrop by a member of the Little Rock, Arkansas, group.
From the start, the group has had two regular meetings a
week plus an open meeting once a month. In Ruston, meetings
began in '57.
A.A. got a tremendous boost from the 45th Anniversary International
Convention held in New Orleans in 1980. Hundreds of A.A.'s
from all over the state formed the Host Committee, and conventioneers
from all over the U.S. and Canada and the rest of the world
showed up at local meetings throughout the week.
which had 32 groups with 782 members in 1955, had 39 groups
and over 6,200 members in 1955.
LOCAL HISTORY. EXISTING NOTES TOO SKETCHY)
Carolina had 63 groups by 1955, with about 900 members.
By 1985, it had 199 groups with a membership of over 3,000.
came to Jackson, Mississippi, in January 1945 when Ruth
and Dick B. moved from Washington, D.C. The group took hold
and apparently the second group formed was in Greenwood.
For about a year, two men from there had been driving 95
miles to Memphis to attend meetings there and 95 miles back
again - as did several others from that part of the state.
So they formed a group in Greenwood which began with 28
members (!), from as far as 50 miles away.
the next several years, groups formed in Tylerstown, Hattiesburg,
Mississippi City and Winona. In '49, a member from
Greenwood with three years' sobriety, "J.P."
M., moved to Brookhaven. He placed an ad in the paper and
the first to answer was Harrison C., who, 36 years later,
was still making coffee for the group.
these early groups were usually small and the members were
well acquainted with each other's stories, Brookhaven
got together with McComb, Natchez and Columbia and organized
"circuit rider" meetings. These were open meetings
held on a Sunday afternoon once a month, at alternating
towns, with guest speakers.
began holding state A.A. conventions in 1948, and at the
'51 convention, Bill W. was the honored guest and
1955, Mississippi had 32 groups with 763 members. In A.A.'s
50th year, these numbers had grown to 215 groups with over