Glimmer of Hope
This article is written by nationally recognized
historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.
Despite his own success at staying sober, Bill W. had
not been able to get anyone else in New York sober. He carried the
message, but no one would join him on this new journey. Both Bill
and Lois were happy about this new life in sobriety, but Bill was
discouraged not being able to "cure" another drunk.
In the early spring of 1935, Bill was going to Akron, Ohio on a business
venture. With almost 5 months of newfound sobriety he was ready to
tackle the world. Upon his arrival in Akron he checked into the Mayflower
Bill's business venture failed. The proxy fight did not go as he
had expected he was alone in a strange city and he was feeling down.
As he paced the lobby of the Mayflower, the bar and the familiar noises
associated with bars was drawing him towards that direction.
He had a choice to make; use what little money he had left to get
drunk - or - make a phone call and once again, attempt to help another
drunk to get sober. He chose the phone call.
This is the official rendition of the story as told in the literature.
There is some speculation however; that the events portrayed in the
literature are not what actually happened. There are some who question
whether or not the Rev. Samuel Shoemaker asked Bill to "look
up" Henrietta Seiberling or some other Oxford Group member as
a means of keeping in contact with the Group in Akron.
Bill had many close ties with the Oxford Group in New York and Rev.
Shoemaker might have hoped that a connection to the Oxford Group in
Akron would help in Bill's continued sobriety.
Much of the story relating to the phone calls at the Mayflower has
been labeled as false by one of the people who would have known about
what actually transpired there.
Henrietta Seiberling, the person who arranged the meeting between
Bill and Dr. Bob wrote to an early AA member telling him her side
of the story. In that undated (ca. Early 1950's) letter, Henrietta
wrote the following about what Bill had written in the RHS Memorial
"His accounts in the "Memoriam" Grapevine
were made up - Telephone conversations, etc - Everything phony
Whether the official story was written to make a better sounding
history or not doesn't alter the fact that Bill did meet with Dr.
Bob and the seed that was to become Alcoholics Anonymous was planted
at Henrietta's Gatehouse home on the Seiberling estate.
Approximately a week after that historic meeting, Bill wrote a letter
to his wife Lois. It was written on Dr. Bob's letterhead and described
Bill's experiences with Dr. Bob. The letter was written prior to Bill
moving in to live with Dr. Bob and his wife Anne while he was still
staying at the Portage Country Club where Henrietta had arranged for
Bill go as he could no longer afford to continue on at the Mayflower
In this letter Bill told Lois that "I am writing this in the
office of one of my new friends, Dr. S____. He had my trouble and
is getting to be an ardent Grouper. I have been to his house for meals,
and the rest of his family is as nice as he is." Bill went on
to say that he had "witnessed" at several meetings of the
Oxford Group at the home of T. Henry and Clarace Williams. He also
wrote that he and Dr. Bob were trying to "change a Dr. McK___,
once the most prominent surgeon in town," and, "His change,
if accomplished, would be a most powerful witness to the whole town
as his case is so notorious."
Though Bill D., was the first successful case Bill and Dr. Bob worked
on, and credited with being, "AA #3," it appears that there
were probably several other alcoholics prior to him to whom the message
More will be revealed