Dr. Bob of A.A. - The Prince of All Twelfth-steppers: the title given him by A.A. cofounder Bill W.
Dick B., Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved.
The purpose of this article is to highlight and underline the value of knowing all the details about Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith (Dr. Bob) who founded the Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship with Bill Wilson in June of 1935. DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, 2001. It is also aimed at letting those in recovery, those leaders in recovery, those who are Christians, and the general public see Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous History, Bill Wilson, Dr. Robert Smith (Dr. Bob), the Bible, the Oxford Group, and the real original program of A.A. in a new, comprehensive, balanced setting.
The value? It is because there are so many biographies of Bill Wilson, so many detractors of Bill Wilson, so many films and stories about Bill W. that many AAs and a host of critics of A.A. have had a field day with Bill W.'s shortcomings. They have ignored the real origins, history, founding, original program, and high rate of success in the Akron Fellowship (Akron Number One, as Bill W. called it).
They have in fact fostered the nonsense gods, illusory "spirituality," and secularization of so many 12 Step meetings today. And it is Dr. Bob and his recovered life that bring the picture in balance.
Christian critics of A.A. and the Steps point to Bill's lengthy affair with spiritualism, Bill's affairs with other women, Bill's compromises on God in order to make his book more saleable, Bill's extensive use of LSD and his even introducing it to his wife, his secretary Nell, and his Roman Catholic friend, Father Ed Dowling. They seem to ignore the Christian precepts by which both Bill and Dr. Bob lived--there is therefore no condemnation in them that are in Christ Jesus. Provided--they walk by the spirit and not by way of the flesh (Romans 8:1). Far worse, they have painted the A.A. fellowship, A.A. members, the A.A. program, and the A.A. literature with a dark swash of obliteration just because of the sins of a founder. And that founder was not Dr. Bob.
AAs themselves are prone to emphasize the role of Bill W. and ignore the agreement that Bill and Dr. Bob made that Bob was to take care of hospitalizations and Twelfth Step work. The two were friends. They did not fight with each other. Within the parameters of their own Christian upbringing and later principles and practices--however different--the two men supported one another, kept in frequent contact, and appeared at conferences together. And all this while Bill (shortly after publishing his Big Book) went into a deep and catastrophic major depression that was widely known, immensely destructive to the appropriate growth of the A.A. fellowship, and influential in some of Bill's wild adventures into Niacin, LSD, and even spiritualism--all to relieve him of his melancholia.
Now to Dr. Bob. If AAs and the general public are ever to cease attributing A.A.'s birth to the Oxford Group and truthfully report A.A.'s basic ideas taken from the Bible, they will probably do it only if and when more people pay attention to Dr. Bob--this even though many of the biblical ideas that Bob learned and practiced in his youth were also learned and practiced by Bill Wilson. See Dick B., The Conversion of Bill W. www.dickb.com/conversion. Little attention has been paid to Bill's Christian upbringing in Vermont, his decision for Jesus Christ at the altar of Calvary Rescue Mission, his statement that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount contained the underlying spiritual philosophy of A.A., and--even in later editions--his frequent quotations from the Bible such as "Thy will be done," "Love thy neighbor as thyself," "Faith without works is dead," "Creator," "Maker," "Father," "Heavenly Father," "God of our fathers," "Father of Lights," and, of course, "God."
But let's begin where I began and grow in the manner I grew in my understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounder Dr. Bob.
First, I read DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers. Next, I visited Akron to investigate. I went to Dr. Bob's Home, to the home where his daughter Sue Smith Windows lived, to the Akron Intergroup offices, to Akron's Founders Day, to the Akron Beacon Journal, to the Bierce Library at University of Akron, to the Summit County Library in Akron, to St. Thomas Hospital, to Congressman John Seiberling--son of A.A. founder Henrietta B. Seiberling, past the Palisades home of T. Henry and Clarace Williams where the original Wednesday night meetings were held, past the Gate Lodge where Henrietta and her three children lived and where Bill and Dr. Bob first met, to the King School where the Akron A.A. meetings were regularly held beginning at the end of 1939, and to Akron Number One's Wednesday Night meeting which still exists and where Dr. Bob's Bible was brought to the podium at the beginning of the meeting and retired at the close.
In rapid order, and after interviewing Dr. Bob's son and daughter, Congressman Seiberling and his two sisters, Dorothy Culver--the daughter of T. Henry Williams, Nell Wing (Bill's secretary), and Frank Mauser (A.A.'s General Services Archivist), and after researching at A.A.'s World Services office and archives in New York, I began collecting books, manuscripts, correspondence, tapes, and much material from the Smith children, the Seiberling children, the daughter of T. Henry Williams, the archivist at Dr. Bob's Home, the Founders Day archivist, many A.A. oldtimers, and a host of Oxford Group activists still surviving.
Then came the books I wrote and now urge all to read. The first was Dick B., Dr. Bob and His Library (as it was called in later editions). www.dickb.com/drbob.shtml. The second was Dick B., Anne Smith's Journal, 1933-1939 (as it was called in later editions). www.dickb.com/annesm.shtml. Next came Dick B., The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous. www.dickb.com/Akron.shtml. And then a number of other titles that fleshed out the history of the roots of Alcoholics Anonymous www.dickb.com/titles.shtml.
Before I conclude, I want to point out two major things:
First, my son Ken and I went to Dr. Bob's boyhood town in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. We were there two times and for three weeks in all. We unearthed thousands of books, manuscripts, news articles, biographies, sermons, Sunday school teachings, histories, church records, Academy records, Library records, census and birth records, and YMCA--Christian Endeavor--St. Johnsbury Academy--North Congregational Church--Congregational--Great Awakening of 1875 in St. Johnsbury--and evangelism-revival records, as well as records from the Congregational churches, the Young Men's Christian Association, public records, school records, curricula, and other materials. Most are now lodged in the Dr. Bob Core Library at the Smith family church--North Congregational Church UCC of St. Johnsbury.
From all this came the extensive records of Dr. Bob's excellent training in the Bible as a youngster in Vermont, his frequent daily chapels and Bible studies and Congregational Church attendance, and his invovement in the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor.
All this Vermont material--and its relationship to the Christian upbringing of Robert Holbrook Smith--is examined and documented in the book by Dick B. and Ken B. Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous: His Excellent Training in the Good Book as a Youngster in Vermont. www.dickb.com/drbobofaa.shtml).
Once the reader has examined these materials--as well as our later books such as The James Club, The Books Early AAs Read for Spiritual Growth, The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous, The Good Book and The Big Book:A.A.'s Roots in the Bible; Turning Point; and When Early AAs Were Cured and Why, he or she will be able objectively to weigh the origins, roots, history, founding, original program, and successes of early A.A.