Akron, OH

Alcoholics Anonymous: How Akron gives birth to the movement

Paul Krasinic

Akron McKinsey/Rawpixel

AKRON - The year is 1935. In Akron, Ohio, at a meeting conducted by stockbroker Bill W. and local surgeon Dr. Bob in the home of a nonalcoholic named Henrietta Seiberling, the Alcoholics Anonymous began. The two men set about to help others, and among the first to hear their message was the suburban attorney, Bill D.

Bill D. was released from the hospital on July 4th, 1935. And history would mark this event as the beginning of the first AA group, regardless of it being a subdivision of the Oxford Group. The Oxford Group itself is a scripture-based movement that later became the foundation of AA.

The success of the AA group spread by word, and a few Clevelanders joined the ranks. The most notable one was Clarence S., a banker from Lyndhurst whose drinking set him astray from his wife and threw him out of his job.

Some religions, especially Catholicism and its Cleveland bishop, found that some of the Oxford Group’s practices are contrary to their own. Thus they forbade their members to join the group. Regardless, the group thrived, and in April 1939, the “Big Book”, a work by Alcoholics Anonymous, was published.

At that time, with a freelance reporter in hand, the group continued to grow. They wrote a series of articles, published in Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, praising AA. These publications resulted in over 500 calls for help, an overwhelming amount for the 13 active Clevelanders within the group.

Within a month, the group gave rise to many more groups. Meetings continued to take place at the homes of nonalcoholic fellows. The original group continued to grow and moved to Mayfield and Lee Roads, Cleveland, then to Lee Road Thursday. The groups that rose from the original referred to themselves as Alcoholics Anonymous, or simply AA.

Today, there are more than 800 groups of Alcoholic Anonymous with one purpose uniting them:

“To Carry Our Message to the Alcoholic Who Still Suffers.”

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