A.A. and Its Cofounder, Dr. Bob
It’s Time to Remember Again That A.A. Had Two Founders
“Between 1940 and 1950, . . . he [Dr. Bob] had treated 5,000 drunks at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron. . . . So Dr. Bob became the prince of all twelfth-steppers. Perhaps nobody will ever do such a job again.”
Bill W., The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, 34.
By Dick B.
© 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved.
Founders Day in Akron Is Around the Corner in 2012
Thousands of AAs and others will soon gather in Akron, Ohio, to celebrate the founding there of Alcoholics Anonymous in June of 1935. Hundreds of motorcycle riders will pound down the streets on their way to the graveside of A.A. cofounder Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith (Dr. Bob) and his wife, Anne Ripley Smith (rightly called the “Mother of A.A.” by cofounder Bill Wilson.)
Hordes will pour into Dr. Bob’s Home at 855 Ardmore Avenue—“where it all began.” (See Dick B., The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous.) They will see where Bill W. and Dr. Bob met together night after night until the wee hours of the morning over the summer of 1935 developing the program of recovery that became Alcoholics Anonymous. They will see where Dr. Bob got sober after previously turning to God in prayer for deliverance. They will see where Anne Smith read from her chair in the corner of the living room each morning. Where she read the Bible to Dr. Bob and Bill each day. Where she continued for years thereafter to gather AAs and their families at the Smith home for morning Quiet Time where she shared from her personal journal. (See Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939.) Where she led the group each day in prayer, Quiet Time, and Bible study. And where the AAs and their families often used devotionals like The Upper Room, The Runner’s Bible, and My Utmost for His Highest.
Documented history confirms that the Book of James was the favorite book in the Akron A.A. “Christian fellowship” for Bible study. So much so, that the Akron AAs had been assured their Society and its forthcoming book would be called “The James Club.” (See Dick B., The James Club and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials). A promise that gave way to the book’s eventual name, Alcoholics Anonymous.
Visitors to Dr. Bob’s Home will also see about half of the immense library of books that Dr. Bob owned, read, studied, and circulated. That portion was donated to Dr. Bob’s Home by his son, Robert R. Smith. (See Dick B., Dr. Bob and His Library.) The books that Dr. Bob owned were foundational in the extensive reading by the A.A. pioneers.
Persistent admirers will also take in other memorable locations—so very important to those who perceive the importance of the “old-school” Akron program to the founding, growth, and success of present-day A.A. They will drive past the T. Henry Williams Home on Palisades Drive—where the original, “regular” Wednesday night meetings were held. They will drive to and can now enter the Gate Lodge located at the foot of the huge Seiberling Estate grounds. For it was there that Henrietta Buckler Seiberling lived with her three children when she introduced Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob to each other, after which occurred a six-hour discussion that sealed the friendship and launched the Society. (See Dick B., Henrietta B. Seiberling: Ohio’s Lady with a Cause.) They may visit the gravesite. They may visit what used to be St. Thomas Hospital where, in the 1940’s, Dr. Bob and Sister Ignatia helped 5,000 drunks recover. (See Mary C. Darrah, Sister Ignatia: Angel of Alcoholics Anonymous). And they make take in the Akron A.A. Intergroup office where still more important memorabilia and books can be seen.
All this temporal focus on Akron once a year while there is an incessant outpouring of autobiographies, writings, and comments by Bill W.; an incessant outpouring of films, TV specials, and biographies of Bill Wilson; and an almost universal A.A. recognition of the name Bill W.—while many do not know who Dr. Bob is, or what role he played in the founding of A.A.
Now, there is a great deal of information available which can make the Dr. Bob picture a live one. And we will discuss this in the next article.