A Story of How A.A. “Cofounder” Episcopal Rector Shoemaker is Being “Resurrected” for Benefit of Alcoholics Anonymous Students and Members
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
This is a story about three AAs, three publishing houses, and the Episcopal Rector, Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., whom I came to know better than the other six. This all happened because I wanted to research, learn, and write about all the spiritual roots of Alcoholics Anonymous. And I had discovered the Bible, the Oxford Group, and Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker to be the least known and understood and the greatest primary sources of the A.A. program of recovery—both Old school A.A. of Akron, and Big Book A.A. of 1939.
The particular account here is about a man (distinguished clergyman, preacher, priest, author, and personal friend of Bill Wilson) virtually unknown to AAs when he appeared on the stage at the invitation of Bill Wilson to address the 1955 International Convention of A.A. in St. Louis – when “A.A. Came of Age.” And Bill Wilson reported that entire convention in Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age.
About twenty years ago, I had come to know A.A. author and publisher Bill Pittman quite well. Via Glenn Abbey Books, a publisher in Seattle for whom Pittman was a chief executive. Bill had published three of my early books. They were Anne Smith’s Journal, The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous, and The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous. They created quite a stir in those days because the subjects and people had just never been examined or reported on by a drunk—a Christian drunk who had recovered, and who had discovered there was lots about A.A. he didn’t know, but thought very important to understanding the fellowship and recovery.
Pittman phoned me. He told me the president of a large, prestigious, Christian publishing House—Fleming Revell, had requested him to write a book about Reverend Shoemaker and A.A. so that Fleming Revell could then republish the many Shoemaker books in which it had previously had a hand (some 14 as I count them today). Pittman told me he couldn’t write it and asked me to do so. I told him I would only do it as a co-author with him in appreciation of his support for my work to that date. That part of this story was about AA number one—Bill Pittman—and publisher number one—Fleming H. Revell. It was also about me—AA number two in the story.
Two things happened that changed the republishing of Fleming Revell’s Shoemaker book republication plan. First, Bill Pittman phoned to tell me that the president had left Fleming Revell. Second, Bill said Fleming Revell had sold out to Baker Book House. But, said Bill, the Shoemaker book was still in the picture. So. For the second publisher—Baker Book House, I wrote most of the Shoemaker book for and with Bill. Baker Book House published it under the title Courage to Change. And, after that, Bill told me Baker had sold the book rights to Hazelden. Hazelden is publisher number three and published the Shoemaker Courage to Change book, and still carries it under the title Courage to Change: The Christian Roots of the Twelve Step Movement. Reports indicated that the first 5,000 were sold and reprinted. Current reports have indicated that at least 100 books a month have continuously sold on the foreign and domestic markets.
We’ve now covered three publishers—Fleming H. Revell, Baker Book House, and Hazelden.
We’ve also covered two of the three AAs—Bill Pittman and Dick B. Certainly I was one. Pittman occasionally acknowledged publically that he too was an AA. Sam Shoemaker was not. On the other hand, he played an important role in the writing of Bill Wilson’s Big Book and Twelve Steps and became such a close friend and supporter of Bill Wilson that Bill lavished Shoemaker with praise. Finally Bill wrote a personal letter to Shoemaker—handed to me by his daughter Nickie. It told him that Bill was naming Shoemaker a “Co-founder of A.A.”
But Shoemaker was little known to or mentioned by early AAs until he appeared at the St. Louis Convention. Thereafter, he spoke at the two A.A. International Conventions. Sam wrote extensively about A.A. and Bill and the Steps. He even wrote articles published by A.A. in its Grapevine. Then I learned of the eye-witness account of Shoemaker’s being asked to write the Steps. I became acquainted with Julia Harris. Mrs. Harris was the widow of Shoemaker’s assistant minister, Rev. W. Irving Harris. She gave me Rev. Harris’s complete collection of inscribed Shoemaker books and gave me statements and a personally typed memo by Rev. Harris about Bill Wilson’s becoming a follower of Jesus Christ at Calvary Mission. She also gave me a copy of Harris’s important book, The Breeze of the Spirit. These fully confirmed my own eye-witness evidence that Bill had asked Sam originally to write the Twelve Steps; and that the two had worked together on the Big Book. Not surprising since Bill later worked closely with the two Jesuit priests—Ed Dowling and another self-acknowledged editor—on Bill’s Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
Courage to Change: The Christian Roots of the Twelve Step Movement is now available in electronic form as a Hazelden publication. Through ensuing years of research, interviews, and study, I became well acquainted with all of Shoemaker’s books, with his daughters and his personal diaries that they reviewed with my son and myself, and with the 58 boxes of Shoemaker papers we investigated for about a week at the Episcopal Church Archives in Austin, Texas.
Then came the Pittsburgh edition of our major Shoemaker work: New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A. Also my review of Shoemaker’s first radio show and his writings and practices on Quiet Time—along with the devotionals he recommended. These were embodied in our second major Shoemaker work: Good Morning!: Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A. From all these, we have been able to piece together the extensive Shoemaker words, language, and idea that can be found and compared to language in the Big Book and Twelve Steps. And, while writers still attribute A.A.’s roots to the Oxford Group and then criticize that group and its founders, we now have an extensive body of A.A. root sources, language, and ideas that really did comes from an abundance of Oxford Group writings, an abundance of Shoemaker writings, and an abundance of early AA reports and stated studies of their study, effort, and use of the Bible. The Bible sources were also most assuredly evident in the very language of the Big Book itself and in recorded statements of Dr. Bob, his wife Anne, Henrietta Seiberling, and others of the founders.
One new excellent Shoemaker reference source has emerged through the third AA in our story—Carl Tuchy Palmieri. Publishing and republishing under his own name and distributing through his Healing Habits.com, Tuchy Palmieri has begun to complete the task undertaken some twenty years ago—the republishing of vital, inspirational, historically relevant Shoemaker books. And there appear to be more to come.
Those already republished include his The Foundations of A.A.: Children of the Second Birth, More Twice Born Men, and Twice Born Men. They also include his republished Shoemaker books: Children of the Second Birth, Twice Born Ministers, and The Conversion of the Church.
There are many more Shoemaker books that are directly relevant to A.A.’s roots and--all but one of these--were published before A.A. was founded. They include: A Young Man’s View of the Ministry (1923), Confident Faith (1932), If I Be Lifted Up (1931), One Boy’s Influence (1925), Realizing Religion (1923), Religion That Works (1928), The Breadth and Narrowness of the Gospel (1929), The Gospel According to You (1934), and also “The Way to Find God,” Calvary Evangel, August, 1935.
We have reviewed all of these in New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A. We gathered them together, along with many Shoemaker papers and articles, and—thanks to the funding by benefactors—we were able to place them in Shoemaker’s second major church in the Shoemaker Room of Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh. We have sent our New Light book to Episcopal newspapers, to every Episcopal Bishop in the many U.S. dioceses, and to other Episcopal leaders and agencies. We have also sent them to every A.A. office for which we had a mailing address—again with the help of benefactors. And we hope to see Tuchy republish as many of these as his mission and resources make possible for him.