Monday, May 30, 2011

AAOrigins: The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous

Though the precise date of June 10, 1935 has been the subject of some dispute, there has been no dispute among members of the A.A. Fellowship that Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by Bill W. and Dr. Bob at the Smith Home on 855 Ardmore Avenue in Akron, Ohio in June of 1935. When the cofounders helped a third man (Bill Dotson)to seek God's help and attain recovery, the date was July 4, 1935; and Bill Wilson proclaimed that to be the date of the founding of the first A.A. Group--Akron Number One.

The facts about how A.A. got to the founding point are scarcely known by many AAs because those facts are not covered in the "basic text" of A.A. that Bill Wilson and his partner published four years later in 1939.

For that reason, I thoroughly researched the real origins of Akron A.A., received the endorsement of the children of Dr. Bob and others who were present at that time. The result was the book "The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous"

For an accurate, thorough, and valuable work on just how Akron A.A. came to be, this book, The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous, is the book you would enjoy reading and studying.

In brief, it covers a number of founding factors which were later elaborated upon in other titles written by me on A.A.'s founding. However, in summary, the factors were these:

1. Russell Firestone, one of the heirs of the famous Firestone Tire & Rubber dynasty, was a seemingly hopeless drunk.

2. Russell's father, Harvey Firestone, Sr., had spent a great deal of time in Florida with his friends Henry Ford and Thomas Alva Edison. While there, he met a brilliant young man named James Draper Newton who had been assisting Edison when visitors came to meet the famed inventor.

3. Firestone, Sr., was so taken with the abilities of Newton that he brought Newton to Akron and was grooming him to become head of the rubber company. And during his time in Akron, Newton became a good friend of Russell Firestone--at first not knowing about Russell's severe problem with alcoholism.

4. Newton was a staunch "member" of the Oxford Group at that time, was a friend of Oxford Group founder Dr. Frank N.D. Buchman, and of the American Oxford Group leader, Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. And Jim Newton arranged to have Russell, Russell's father, and Newton himself travel with Sam Shoemaker on a train trip to an Episcopal Conference in Denver. Meanwhile, Russell was drinking heavily all the while.

5. On the return trip to Akron, Shoemaker took Russell into a train compartment. There he led Russell Firestone to a decision for Jesus Christ. And Russell was healed. I have seen the diaries of Shoemaker and of Newton and they confirm the foregoing details. And, by the time the train arrived in Akron, the family doctor pronounced Russell's recovery a miracle.

6. For two years Russell and Jim Newton traveled together as Oxford Group activists and witnessed in many locations. Finally, in 1933, the Firestone family was so elated with Russell's success in overcoming drinking that they brought Oxford Group founder Dr. Frank Buchman to Akron to celebrate and witness. Buchman and some 30 Oxford Group people took over the Protestant pulpits and other places in Akron. They gave Christian testimonies and were joined by Russell who spoke of his rebirth, his Bible study, and his victory over alcohol. Most of these facts were widely reported in Akron newspapers, whose articles I have personally read.

7. Aware of Dr. Bob's drinking problem and also having problems of her own, Henrietta Seiberling (wife of one of the Seiberling family members, and an Oxford Group enthusiast, Christian, and Bible student)persuaded Dr. Bob's wife, and two other ladies to come and hear the 1933 testimonials. The four ladies were persuaded that God could help Dr. Bob. They also persuaded T. Henry Williams, husband of one of the ladies, to help them form a small Oxford Group, which later moved to the home of T. Henry.

8. And it was at the small meeting at the home of T. Henry and Clarace Williams in Akron that Dr. Bob admitted he was a "secret drinker." When asked if he would like to pray, Dr. Bob said, "Yes." And he and the group knelt on the rug and prayed for his deliverance.

9. There is much much more to the Akron story. And it is covered in The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous. It details the contributions of Dr. Bob, Henrietta Seiberling, Dr. Bob's wife, T. Henry and Clarace Williams, and Bill Wilson who seemed, in Henrietta's view, to have been the answer to their prayers when he called out of the blue and sought to work with another drunk. That drunk was Dr. Bob.

For the full details, read The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous

Dick B.,,

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