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with Searcy W.
is an interview with Searcy W. that was conducted for the
October 1999 issue of the D.I.A.Log, the official newsletter
of the Dallas Intergroup Association. Searcy has the most
sobriety of any AA member in the Dallas area...at this time
(January, 2001) he has 55+ years of continuous sobriety!
Searcy is a founding member of the Whitehouse Group in Dallas,
and his sobriety date is 5/10/46.
AA Central Office
Log - Searcy, you've been sober longer than anybody we know
of in Dallas AA, but at the time you got sober you weren't
living here. When did you actually move to Dallas?
Searcy W. - Well, the thing about that is, I came into Alcoholics
Anonymous in Dallas, but at that time I had been transferred
to Lubbock by the company I worked for. My drinking problems
had become more serious, and toward the end in 1945 I heard
about Alcoholics Anonymous from Bob S., who was an old drinking
buddy of mine who lived in West Texas but had moved to Dallas.
I ran into him in Odessa, and he told me about AA and what
happened to him, and he sent me the Big Book. I didn't read
the Big Book very much, and I kept drinking until I lost
my job in November 1945; then I stayed drunk until April
1946 when I finally did what Bob told me to: I came to Dallas,
looking him up to find out what Alcoholics Anonymous was
about. I had little knowledge of the actual workings of
AA. They put me in a drying out place here in Dallas off
Maple Street, which was the only place that a drunk could
get in to sober up, and the third day there, they took me
to a meeting in downtown Dallas. I finally got sober there
on May 5, 1946. 912½ Main Street was the first group
in Dallas, and there were about eight or nine people there
sober in AA, and there were only about fourteen members
at that time in all of the Dallas area.
D.I.A. Log - So your home was actually in Lubbock when you
sobered up and then you moved back here?
Searcy W. - I was in Lubbock, yes.
D.I.A. Log - Okay, when did you actually move back to Dallas?
Searcy W. - I moved back here in 1949.
D.I.A. Log - Tell us more about the groups that were here
when you moved back in 1949 and then how they developed
through the '50s.
Searcy W. - I came to all the meetings here even in the
beginning: there was no group where I lived in West Texas;
there wasn't any group between Ft. Worth and Phoenix. So
I had to come to meetings in Dallas, and I was a member
of the Downtown Group. In September of 1946 we moved out
and formed the Suburban Group at the corner of Dickason
and Sale streets. I was a member of that group. The first
groups were in this order: the Downtown Group at 912½
Main, the Suburban Group at Dickason and Sale, and then
the Oak Cliff Group was formed about the same time. Out
of the Suburban Group grew the Preston Group, the Belmont
Group, the Belwood Group, and several like that. [Editor's
note: Other old-timers aver that the Preston Group was a
split-off from the Town North Group.] The Central Group
and Town North and all of those groups grew out of the old
Suburban Group: most of them did, anyway.
D.I.A. Log - That wasn't the same Central Group that was
around in Dallas in the '80s, was it? That must have been
a different group.
Searcy W. - No, no, that was before then, a different group.
D.I.A. Log - Right. So when did the White House Group actually
Searcy W. - The White House Group started about fourteen
years ago as a result of the demise of the Suburban Group
which had closed its doors way back then, so the old members
of Suburban Group came together at the White House where
I had an office and we formed the White House Group. That
was about fourteen years ago.
D.I.A. Log - So the White House Group really itself isn't
that old but it's what was left of the old Suburban Group?
Searcy W. - Yeah, there were fourteen former members of
Suburban Group that helped start the White House Group.
D.I.A. Log - That's really interesting. Now let's explore
a bit more about the origins of Dallas AA. Our history records
that a woman named Esther E. founded the first AA group
in Dallas. Tell us what she was like.
Searcy W. - Well, Esther's story actually is written in
detail; her story's in the Big Book. "The Southern
Belle", you know. [Her story, found in the Third Edition
of Alcoholics Anonymous, is actually titled "The Flower
of the South" - Ed.] She was a good-looking lady and
full of pep and knowledge about the program of Alcoholics
Anonymous. Of course she'd been through the ringer pretty
well. She came to Dallas in 1943, and there were no groups
in Dallas at that time. And there was no place, no hospital
that would take an alcoholic for treatment. But you could
take an alcoholic to Terrell state mental hospital. In that
mental hospital was a guy named Vern G. Esther for 2 years
went out there and worked there with him, and he would get
out intermittently for awhile but he couldn't stay sober.
She tried to give the program to him for a long while, but
it failed. But then in 1945 they started the Downtown Group
of Alcoholics Anonymous which was in cooperation with some
early members of Alcoholics Anonymous in Ft. Worth. They
had formed a little group in Ft. Worth, four or five people.
D.I.A. Log - Searcy, you have a wonderful story about you,
Bill W. and the Twelve Traditions.
Searcy W. - From the time I came in 1946 through late '46
and '47 we tried to establish groups all over Texas, and
everybody all over the state worked together to form these
groups. And so what happened was that a lot of groups presented
problems because in the Southwest we had clubs, and they
called them AA clubs - which was not right. AA is not a
club, officially. But we had clubs and that caused a need
for money. So money and management and those things caused
problems with Bill Wilson. Day and night he was being called
about so-and-so trying to run this or that club. In 1948,
25 people agreed to meet in Lubbock; they came from all
over the state of Texas. Bill Wilson had been visiting his
mother in Phoenix, and I got him to come to Amarillo to
meet me and then go on to Lubbock to speak and help us with
forming these groups and tell us what we were doing wrong.
Bill and Lois came in on a plane from Phoenix, and then
we got on another plane and headed toward Lubbock. Then
Bill reached in his coat pocket and pulled out some handwritten
notes saying, "I want you to read these notes and see
what you think about it." I read them over carefully
and looked at him and said, "Well, Bill, we don't need
this down here. We love each other. Oh, how we love each
other." But it was the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics
Anonymous, the thing that saved Alcoholics Anonymous, but
I didn't know it then. Very few people knew anything about
these Traditions and why they were being formed, but later
on of course in 1950 at the International Conference in
Cleveland, Dr. Bob and Bill took me up to the room and schooled
me in what we needed to do to get votes to pass the Twelve
Traditions, to accept the Twelve Traditions as they were
written. We were to vote on the Twelve Traditions with about
8,000-9,000 people. And at that meeting there was not a
single dissenting vote.
D.I.A. Log - Can you clarify one thing for us? Bill showed
you this draft of the traditions in 1948 when you were in
West Texas but he had started publishing articles about
his proposed Traditions two years before in the Grapevine.
I'm betting not a lot of people who were members of AA down
here were reading the Grapevine at that time.
Searcy W. - Very few. And very few people in the Southwest
knew anything about the Traditions being formed, they didn't
know anything about it. Not only in West Texas, but all
over. At that convention in Cleveland where they voted to
adopt the Twelve Traditions, not a lot of people knew about
them, either. We voted for it for unity but we didn't know
a hell of a lot about it, very little. It passed, thank
God. You know, Bill worked on those traditions for four
or five years previously and there may have been some things
I had corresponded with him with about them, but I still
didn't understand exactly why we needed them. That's how
ignorant I was about it.
D.I.A. Log - Bill was incredibly farsighted, wasn't he?
Tell us this: when you talked at our group a few years back
you had some great reminiscences about Ebby T's sojourn
in Dallas. Didn't Bill send him down here in desperation
because he wasn't staying sober back East?
Searcy W. - Well, here's the story behind that. As you know,
when Bill Wilson was near the end in 1934, Ebby came to
see him and gave him an idea about "God as we understand
Him." After AA got started Bill always said that Ebby
was his sponsor. But six months after he gave Bill a clue
on how to stay sober, Ebby went back out in the Bowery in
New York City and had stayed drunk on and off for eighteen
years. Then in early 1953 Bill Wilson came to Dallas. By
then I was head of a clinic that took wet drunks. Bill and
I had lunch, and after that lunch I asked Bill, "What
would you rather see happen now that's never happened in
AA before?" and without any hesitation he said, "I'd
rather see Ebby have a chance to get sober." Bill said
that it as if to say, "You sober Ebby up" - that's
the way I took it. Bill didn't even know exactly where Ebby
was, but a couple of mutual friends found him on the Bowery.
They dried him out a bit but gave him a pint of whiskey
to get on the plane with, and he flew to Dallas to sober
up. Ebby was in bad shape physically, mentally, spiritually
and every other way you could imagine after being drunk
for the better part of eighteen years and sleeping on the
streets. And he was very unruly. He cussed out Bill and
Dr. Bob and me and everybody else. Ebby was still very resentful
because he could have been one of the forefathers of AA.
But finally, Ebby asked if he could go to a meeting with
me, and we went over to the Suburban Club - he got sober
and stayed that way. And he got to helping others; we got
him a job and he did pretty good. He stayed 4 or 5 years
before going back to New York. But his health was failing
him and he fell off the wagon again. Of course Bill was
in touch with him all the time, and he made arrangements
for Ebby to go to a halfway house in upstate New York. The
lady up there that ran it said she would gladly take care
of him. He went up there in 1963 and in 1966, he died.
D.I.A. Log - Many of us have heard stories that Ebby didn't
die sober, but then there are other ones that said he did
die sober. Which is true?
Searcy W. - I happen to know that Ebby was sober 2½
years when he died.
D.I.A. Log - Thank you, it's good to get that straight.
Searcy W. - Most people say that Ebby died drunk, but he
did not. He was sober 2½ years. My source on that
was directly from was Lois Wilson; she told me unequivocally
that Ebby was sober 2½ years when he passed away.
D.I.A. Log - I appreciate you clearing that up for all of
us. Only two more questions, Searcy. I'm sitting here looking
at a medallion on your desk that has a Roman number L and
three IIIs on it, and, frankly, that whole idea overwhelms
me - you've been sober a very long time. Apart from your
own sobering up, could you tell us the one most significant
event of your whole AA experience? Most significant to you,
Searcy W. - That would be difficult. I always thought after
I came in that this was such a great thing. The program
of Alcoholics Anonymous - it's such a design for living
that I thought the whole world ought to know about it. So
I questioned Bill Wilson about all these things that happened
and why we're here and how we were here, and he wanted me
to go to the Yale Summer School and study these things,
alcoholism, you know? So I did that and luckily, Dr. Jellinek
moved from Yale after I attended there in 1947 and came
to teach a year at Ft. Worth. [Ed. note: Dr. E. M. Jellinek
co-founded the Yale School of Alcohol Studies in 1943.]
Then I met a man named Horace, and he and I worked for Dr.
Jellinek and did educational work. We talked to schools,
churches - anybody that would listen about the disease of
alcoholism. We worked colleges, universities, schools, churches,
all kinds of public talks. Dr. Jellinek also suggested we
needed hospitals for an alcoholic to go into to sober up
and go directly into AA. So he helped me establish the clinic
in Lubbock, the clinic in Dallas where Ebby sobered up,
and the ones in Houston and Carlsbad, New Mexico. And in
those days everybody had a problem with drinking, but there
were very few drunk addicts; we didn't have any. We had
every once in awhile a barbiturate addict, but mostly straight
alcoholics. But they sobered up in those places because
there were AAs in there day and night taking them to meetings
and sponsoring them, helping them through the steps, and
they stayed sober. About 75% of them stayed sober, because
they went into AA. Because they were taken to AA by an AA
and worked with after that.
D.I.A. Log - As a final comment, Searcy, tell us how the
Twelve Steps are working for you today, perhaps contrasted
with the way they worked in your life fifty years ago when
you were early in your sobriety.
Searcy W. - Well, there was a greater urgency at that time
just to stay sober, that's for sure. But it's still true
that anything that comes up in my life today is contingent
on my daily relationship with a higher power. I can stay
sober only on a daily basis - thank God we're taught to
live one day at a time, and I've been doing that for 53
D.I.A. Log - Searcy, this has been great, and we're so grateful
for your spending your time with us. I know I can speak
for all our readers in saying that we're looking forward
to hearing about your celebrating a 54th birthday very soon.
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Dallas Intergroup Association
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