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Anonymous history in your area
Fort Worth Texas
From the archives of the Fort Worth A.A.
on page 2 >>
document is a transcription of an archives history provided
by the Fort Worth Central Office. Only minor editing changes
have been made. The history, as well as its source material,
will be digitally archived into the Northeast Texas Area
Archives for permanent retention. About this History. This
history was completed in late 1975 by Bill H., a member
of the Harbor Group of Alcoholics Anonymous in Fort Worth.
It supercedes two earlier histories he wrote about the birth
and development of the Fellowship here. One was written
in 1962 and another in the summer of 1975. In those writings
there was omission of the true beginning of A.A. here. Based
on the only material he had at the time; the author erroneously
concluded that A.A. had begun in Fort Worth in 1943. Thanks
are due to V.J. of A.A. Group No. 1, in Fort Worth, for
uncovering material showing clearly that the Fellowship
was stirring here in 1941. V.J.’s discovery was made from
copies of Correspondence he obtained from the A.A. General
Service Office in New York. The writing of this history
is the work of Bill H. but in gathering material, he had
help from several sources. One source was the reference
files at the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Other material came
from the General Service office in New York.
much of the material (as a matter of fact, the bulk of the
material came from pioneer A.A. members here. Among them
were: Ralph R. (see the chapter titled: August 28, 1943),
Lou G., Jack W. and Joe C. Ralph R. is deceased. Lou G.,
one of many beneficiaries of Ralph’s sponsorship, is a member
of Fort Worth’s A.A. Group No. 1. Jack W. And Joe C. are
members of the Harbor Group of A.A.
C. is Secretary-Treasurer of the Harbor Club Inc. and a
member of the club’s board of Directors. Jack W., member
of the club’s board of directors, as of this writing, has
the earliest Sobriety date of any Fort Worth A.A. member
(May 5, 1945)
genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous in Fort Worth is hazy in
the mist of time. First stirrings of the Fellowship here
were felt in 1941, but no person known to have been active
in A.A. in Fort Worth then is alive today. There is, however,
some written evidence of Fellowship activity here that year.
first written expression of interest in A.A. in Fort Worth
is in the form of two letters on file with The Fellowship’s
General Service Office in New York City. They were written
in the spring of 1941 by a distressed wife who sought help
for her alcoholic husband, a Fort Worth oil firm engineer.
They lived on Alston Avenue in the city’s South Side.
in New York sent her literature, but said the only Texas
A.A. group was in Houston (a group had been founded there
in March 1940). The ailing husband may have been affiliated
with the A.A. group that was to develop here later. Or,
he might have (as countless others before and after him)
simply evaporated into alcoholic oblivion. There is no record
of what happened to him.
record is clear however of the beginning of group activity
later in 1941. For purposes of Historical assessment, this
author ² concludes that title of “A.A. No. 1 in Fort
Worth” must go to another man, George McL. His work starting
an A.A. group in Fort Worth is confirmed by correspondence
on file with GSO. Moreover, there were people alive in Fort
Worth today who knew him and saw his A.A. work. George died
March 9, 1946 of cancer, but he died sober.
This section was the last page (pg. 14) of the original
document. It is moved to the front to acknowledge the author
² Bill H.
Worth Central Office Page 1 Transcribed 10/15/01
has a letter on file from George McL. dated May 25, 1941.
He gave his address as 1710 Washington on Fort Worth’s South
Side and wrote: Referring to the article by Jack Armstrong
in the March 1st issue of the S.E. post, I wish to start
this work here, or if someone has already done so, to be
put in touch with them. I quit drinking about two years
ago with one relapse and a million temptations since. It
ruined my life, killed my wife and put me on relief. Am
now recovering from ten operations for cancer, am 57 years
old and by the grace of God, intend to devote the rest of
my life to his work. I thank you for whatever information
you may be able to give me.
answered George’s handwritten letter on June 4, 1941, telling
him that the only Texas A.A. group was in Houston and giving
him the group’s address. New York made no reference to the
woman who had written earlier that year about her husband.
Such reference would seem to have been in order, but it
must be remembered that those were the early days and the
New York office was undermanned and underfinanced. Nothing
in subsequent correspondence between Fort Worth A.A. and
New York alludes in any way to the wife or her husband.
George McL. was “A.A. No. 1 in Fort Worth”, when was the
first group meeting held? This historical session could
have been July 23, 1941. On file in New York is a letter
from George McL., dated July 24, 1941. It said: I am happy
to report that I have the A.A. well on it’s way in Fort
Worth. At our meeting last night we had seven members, one
from St. Louis and one from Chicago. We have three of your
the context of the letter’s date, “last night” would have
been July 23, 1941. Of course, it is possible that George
had organized an earlier group meeting and simply failed
to mention it. However, since there is nothing in the written
record mentioning an earlier meeting, it would be reasonable
to assume that the first known A.A. group meeting in Fort
Worth was July 23.
the beginning of A.A. in Fort Worth came about six years
after the Fellowship was founded in Akron, Ohio (June 10,
1935) by the New York stockbroker Bill W. and the Akron
physician Dr. Bob S. The next chronology from Fort Worth
is a letter dated August 28, 1941 from George McL. he wrote
New York that Fort Worth’s A.A. group had grown to eleven
members. He asked: Can you give me any idea as to procedure
in meetings? And he posed another prophetic query: What
about women, so far we have none but will?
is no clue in George’s correspondence where group meetings
were held in 1941. A good guess would be his South Side
home, where it is known for sure that meetings were held
published census reports in the early 1940’s. One, issued
in December 1941, stated that Fort Worth A.A had twelve
members and listed the Group Secretary as George McL. A.A.
worldwide membership mushroomed in 1941 from 2,000 to 8,000.
Credit for that quantum leap is given to the Saturday Evening
Post. In March 1941, it carried a glowing story about the
Fellowship in an article by Jack Alexander. George McL.
referred to the article in his first letter to A.A.
the Alcoholics Anonymous movement in Fort Worth died down
(and almost out) in 1942. Correspondence between New York
and Fort Worth was sparse. In one letter, New York wrote
to George McL.: We had just about decided you had dropped
out of the A.A. picture. There was a reference to George’s
illness and he was urged to solicit help from other A.A.
members in Fort Worth. On February 9, 1942 New York wrote
George about a prospect. The letter also said:
is just a short note to determine whether the Fort Worth
group is still active…let us know…if your group is still
Worth Central Office Page 2 Transcribed 10/15/01
A.A. census in early 1943 listed Fort Worth as being down
to only five members. The same report carried George McL.
as Group Secretary. What caused this drop in A.A. activity
here in 1942 and early 1943? There are two possible reasons.
One is that George was suffering grievously from cancer.
He undoubtedly was the prime mover in the Fellowship in
those pioneer days, and with his activity slowed by illness,
there could have been a resulting group slowdown.
other reason was that these were days of crisis for the
nation. People were on the move, in uniform or in war work.
It was not the best time for a new entity to take root and
is no doubt that the outlook for A.A. in Fort Worth in 1943
a new dawn was coming.
some point about the middle of 1943, Alcoholics Anonymous
activity in Fort Worth had vanished. George McL. then was
a loner, staying sober by prayer and reading of the Big
Book. Whatever happened to the other A.A. pioneers here
is not known. What is known for certain is that the date
August 28, 1943 marked the beginning of continuous and uninterrupted
Fellowship group activity in Fort Worth. The catalytic agent
for launching that growth was a railroad switchman and former
deputy sheriff who was waging a losing battle with the bottle.
He was Ralph R.
Anonymous emphasizes principles before personalities, but
if any individual Fort Worth A.A. merited tribute for toil
in the Fellowship’s primeval vineyards it would be this
man. In the spring of 1943, Ralph was only 32 but he was
desperate for help because of his drinking. So were his
loved ones. A sister-in-law in Kansas mailed an article
about A.A. to Ralph’s distressed wife, Virginia. Virginia
called the Fort Worth Star-Telegram hoping someone there
would know about A.A. in Fort Worth. Someone did and gave
George McL’s phone number.
called George but didn’t follow through until August 28.
Then after a painful drunk, he went to George’s home for
A.A. help. He got it. Ralph joined A.A. then, and since
that fateful meeting, Alcoholics Anonymous has vibrated
in Fort Worth without letup.
became an apostle for the Fellowship, one of the most zealous
Twelfth-Steppers of all time. Beneficiaries of his sponsorship
are legion and his work was heroic in mold. He traveled
up and down the land studying alcoholism in clinics and
drying-out places. He became a personal friend of A.A. co-founder
Bill W. and journeyed to New York to seek Bill’s expert
counsel on Fellowship matters.
all of that was after the 1943 meeting of Ralph and George.
The two continued to meet about once a week at George’s
home. They read the Big Book, talked, meditated and prayed.
the fall of 1943 a woman joined them. She was the first
woman member of A.A. in Fort Worth.
T. came from a wealthy, socially prominent family. But alcoholism
is no respecter of fiscal weight or social station. Anne
was a drunk and she was crying out for help.
a Little Acorn
Anne T. heard about A.A. and about George McL. and Ralph
R. is not known, but she began meeting with them (probably
in November 1943). Meetings were moved from George’s home
to an area over a stable on property Anne owned on Summit
Avenue, once Proud Silk Stocking Row of Fort Worth cattle
Years after his pioneering in A.A. here, Ralph R. had relapses
but his work was an inspiration to countless A.A. members
and is remembered clearly to this day. He died January 16,
Worth Central Office Page 3 Transcribed 10/15/01
joining them was a soft-spoken little Fort Worth oilman,
Mac B., who became a staunch member of the society of recovering
groups throughout the world have run various classified
ads (usually under the Personal Column) offering help to
those who want it. The first such ad by Fort Worth A.A.
appeared in a Sunday Fort Worth Star-Telegram on October
31, 1943. Ralph R. went to the want-ad counter and while
pondering what to write, these words flowed from his pencil:
PROBLEM drinkers who want
help themselves. No charge.
1671, Fort Worth, Texas
group grew. Anne rented a room at the Blackstone Hotel,
and meetings were moved to there.
wrote New York A.A. on November 8, 1943: Good news that
Fort Worth is starting up again.
many as ten people began attending regularly.
as numbers are concerned, the Fellowship just about held
its own but didn’t grow in Fort Worth in 1944. A census
dated January 11, 1944 said Fort Worth had ten members and
reported that the group met in the downtown YMCA at 7:30
on Wednesdays. Anne T. was Group Secretary. An August 1944
census said the group had twelve members. Mac B. was Secretary.
few pioneers were yeasty. The Fellowship began to ferment
about this time.
growth was to follow.
boom years of early A.A. growth in Fort Worth began in 1945.
A February census of that year said that the group here
was up to twenty-eight members. The Secretary was J. Van
H. An August 1945 census said that Fort Worth had fifty-seven
members. The Secretary was Gwen M.
hundred and two members were reported by Group Secretary
Harry D. in February 1946 and membership was listed at 275
in February 1947 by Secretary Johnny R. There were other
important signs of growth. In 1945 the group moved from
the YMCA to the First Presbyterian Church Annex downtown.
the same year, the group rented (for $100 per month) a two-story
brick building at 612 West 4th Street. The structure still
stands, just east of the First Methodist Church.
was the first site of an A.A. club in Fort Worth. A contest
was held to select the name for the club. A Fort Worth advertising
man, Joe C. won the contest with the name of The Harbor
Club. This was in early 1948. The prize was a $50 savings
bond (Joe donated it back to the club).
establishment of the club as a place of continuing daily
activity, A.A. took solid roots in the community and continued
to grow. Activity was almost feverish. Meetings were packed-almost
standing room only. Food was served from a busy kitchen.
A full time Secretary lived on the 2nd floor. His office
thrived. Eager new members were poised around the clock
for Twelfth-Step calls.
Worth A.A. attracted national attention with the Fellowship.
It was said to have an outstanding recovery rate. Old timers
claim that in those days if a member didn’t show up for
a meeting, that a squad of “trouble shooters” would dash
out in pursuit. There was other activity within the club-strange
sounds-the riffling of pasteboard upstairs and down-and
the click-click-click of metal reels. The Harbor Club was
to become one of the richest A.A. milieus in the world.
Worth Central Office Page 4 Transcribed 10/15/01
for the web by Mark S