Summary of MAAC activities in July/August

Donations: Tony S. donated three boxes of speaker tapes and various other AA-related memorabilia and artifacts. JB donated a box of Traditions Group's records going back decades.

Events attended: We recorded the speakers and obtained signed flyers at these events: District 54 summer bash July 28th (Panel-Service Structure), Frayser Group anniversary 57th Anniversary July 29th (Milton McC), Primary Purpose Labor Day Lollapaloosa September 1st. (Basil W, Devereaux J.)


Upcoming events: District 22 Workshop "Helping the Newcomer" September 22nd, Jaywalker's 13th Anniversary September 22nd, District 21 Workshop "Chairing Meetings" October 14th

Archivists Corner: Wrote a piece on the District 54 Summer Bash

The Tippler: Had an article published: Getting to Know Your MAAC

Projects: Outreach Coordinator Hank H. continues to make headway on his project of assembling a current master list of groups by their actual districts - as opposed to their geographically assigned districts. The two largely correlate but the exceptions do create some confusion and we feel it would be helpful if they were noted. He has now obtained lists from 3/6 districts of their current groups. We also now have a master list from a year ago, thanks to Tony S.'s efforts

Hank. H. also plans to spearhead an effort to collect as many Memphis speaker tapes as possible and make MAAC a central resource for those who care to listen to tapes going back as far as the 1950s.

Hank H. also plans to visit as many groups as possible over the next year - with an eye toward collecting group histories, collecting GSO correspondence, collecting speaker tapes, filling in the gaps of our knowledge of old-timer anniversaries, setting up old-timer interviews, filling in the gaps of our knowledge about group anniversaries, encouraging groups to celebrate their anniversaries, and educating groups in general about how MAAC serves them.

David C. is almost finished with a major piece on the backdrop to Bill W's famous 1947 Memphis talk on the Traditions. Over the next few months, David also plans to research and write an extensive tribute piece on Freddie Hunt.

Dale S. continues his work on an extensive primary research piece on Berton Davis and the history of the Harbor House.

Dale S. continues his primary research on studying the obituaries of early Memphis AA's from the 1940s and 1950s.


David Davis

Service Structure workshop notes and audio

District 54 held a Summer Bash Event on July 28th featuring a service structure workshop with three panelists covering these levels: Nelson G. (The Home Group), Jessica J. (District Level), and Don A. (Area Level).

MAAC recorded the event and will make it available to you upon request.

Here are the highlights:

Nelson G. - Service at the Home Group

  • Accountability, consistency, and showing up - consistency in particular defines recovery
  • Learn ho to be a small part of a great whole
  • You either do something or do nothing . . . and if do nothing, you will drink again
  • The first window to the home group is getting a sponsor
  • One needs a home group to become "a part of" by doing service work; it is "something to join."
  • Sponsor will suggest initial service like greeting, talking to people, chairs, coffee etc.
  • Learn meeting etiquette such as not getting up during the meeting, not texting, not checking phone
  • Men should strongly consider wearing coats and ties when chairing, getting a medallion, or speaking
  • Practice being in the present by sitting and listening intently during the meetings
  • Learn patience at business meetings by the informed group conscience, minority voice, and the practice of revisiting important matters one month later
  • Rarely if ever a good idea to have two home groups: Can't serve two masters nor is it respecting AA to vote twice
  • Chairing a good meeting is an underrated endeavor within AA and sets a critical example for the newcomer

Nelson suggested reading the following pamphlets:

AA Tradition - How It Developed (P-17)

The AA Group (P-16)

Circles of Love and Service (P-45)

Inside AA (P-18)

Self Support - Where Money and Spirituality Mix (F-3)

Seventh Tradition Fact Sheet (F-203)

The GSR May Be The Most Important Job in AA (P-19)

The AA Group Treasurer (F-96)

Jessica J. - Service at The District Level


  • Essential level which takes group input to the area
  • Scope out map for dark sections and rally GSRs to start meetings there
  • A recurring theme: "Bring the light"
  • Ensure that meetings/groups know about all the available literature from GSO
  • Help GSRs to make their reports interesting
  • It is extremely hard to have informed GSRs without a district structure in place
  • Provides a forum for groups to talk about issues, difficulties, and what is working well
  • GSRs who attend district meetings are more likely to attend assemblies
  • Vote the conscious of the groups unable to attend assemblies


Don A. - Service at The Area Level


  • There are differences between meetings and assemblies
  • Some assemblies are traditionally one day and others take the weekend
  • Area is short for "Delegate Service Area" and can be an entire state (e.g. TN and MS) or part of a state or even just part of a highly populated city
  • An Assembly is a business meeting of the area's GSR's, standing committees, and other committees
  • The group conscience is brought to and further formed at assemblies yet new information does arise which makes it necessary for GSRs to sometimes vote what they think is best for AA as a whole
  • A primary function of the area assembly is to elect a delegate
  • A secondary function is the dissemination of information
  • Although anyone can send a proposed agenda item to the General Service Conference, it caries a lot more weight if the area is behind it
  • It is typically a five year process for major changes to be effected at the General Service Conference level
  • A General Service Conference is necessary for the AA recovery infrastructure to carry on so the next guy can get sober, so NY laws can be complied with, and because of a fiduciary responsibility
  • AA is structured like an inverted pyramid with the decision-making process proceeding down the food chain with the groups being the most important factors


David Davis


Donations: Milton McC from Traditions Group donated an early hardcover edition of Emmet Fox's Sermon on the Mount as well as a 1982 version of the pamphlet "Problems other than Alcohol (excerpts)."

Events attended: We displayed our traveling collection and were there to answer questions at District 21's Old Timer Luncheon held June 2nd and Founder's Day held June 16th. We recorded the speakers and obtained signed flyers at both these events.

We obtained signed flyers and recorded Jon P.'s 3-plus hour Delegate's report of the 68th General Service Conference on June 30th

Funerals/memorial services: We attended Freddie Hunt's memorial service and funeral June 15th and 16th. With the ok of his widow Ilene, we recorded the hour's worth of poignant tributes that AA's, family members, and friends gave for Freddie at the visitation. The program for the funeral service now resides in our permanent collection and a copy is also made available at select AA functions as part of our traveling collection


Projects: Outreach Coordinator Hank H. obtained a list of all groups by their geographic district. Since groups are free to join any district they want, this list does not perfectly correlate with reality. Hank is working with the DCMs and the Intergroup Office Manager/Steering Committee Secretary to compile a companion list of groups by their actual district. We will update accordingly.

Projects: Outreach Coordinator Hank H. plans to visit as many groups as possible over the next year - with an eye toward collecting group histories, filling in the gaps of our knowledge of old-timer anniversaries, setting up old-timer interviews, filling in the gaps of our knowledge about group anniversaries, and educating groups in general about how MAAC serves them.

We also plan to write an extensive tribute piece on Freddie Hunt.

Events scheduled for July:

1) District 54/MSCYPAA Summer Bash

  • Saturday, July 28, 2018
  • 12:00 PM 4:00 PM
  • Horn Lake Group 8017 U.S. 51 Southaven, MS, 38671 United States (map)

Service Structure Workshop w/Q&A

Pie throwing at Old Timers - Auction

50/50 Raffle

Free Food

2) Frayser Group 57th Anniversary

  • Sunday, July 29, 2018
  • 1:00 PM 5:00 PM
  • Crosstown Concourse 1350 Concourse Avenue, 1st Floor Community Room Memphis, TN, 38104 United States (map)

AA Speaker: Milton McC 45 yrs - Traditions Group

AFG Speaker: Kathy H. 11 yrs - Singleness of Purpose

Frayser Group is the 5th oldest continuously operating group in the Memphis area

David Davis

Summary of MAAC activities in April

Donations: Janet Z - who now lives in Seattle - gave dozens of pictures of Central Group and Came to Believe Group activities going back to the 1990's to MAAC's CTB Rep, Shamus, who forwarded them to us. We will make these available for viewing at the Founder's Day and Old Timer's Day events (see calendar) or anytime you want to stop and visit our permanent collection. Please note that full face pictures of living AA's are restricted access materials.

Group Activity: Hank H. diligently assembled a list of old timer birthdays from the Mustard Seed Group. This was greatly appreciated! We do our best to attend any birthdays of celebrants over 40 years and all specific 40 and 50-year birthdays.

Events attended: We assembled a table of contestants and made a brief presentation at District 24th's Trivia event on April 14th. Sadly, your archivist's team lacked capable leadership so was beset by infighting, sarcasm, ego reinflation, power-driving, and overintellectualism . . . and, accordingly, was lucky to finish second. Marion C's squad won handily.

Birthdays attended: Terry T's 45th on 4/25 (Winchester Group) and Milton McC 's 45th on 4/28 (Traditions Group).

Interviews: We spent an hour over the phone with the aforementioned Janet Z (37 years) discussing Central Group,Came to Believe, Kitty Lu Abernathy and many other interesting topics.

Events scheduled: Sherry L's 40th  birthday celebration at Winchester Group slated for May 30th at 8:00. See calendar:

David Davis

MAIA "Information for You" - Wrap-Up

D'Juana and Barbara hosted and planned what turned out to be a most informative session Saturday afternoon March 31st. MAAC attended, made a brief presentation, and recorded the panel - consisting of:

September L., Taproot (Intergroup Rep)

Marilyn L., South Memphis (Intergroup Rep)

Carol M., Traditions (MAIA Steering Committee Chair)

Don A., Three Legged Stool (MAIA Steering Committee At Large Member)

The panelists' topics included MAIA reps communication with their home groups, the importance of the MAIA rep position, how MAIA serves the groups, and the role of the steering committee (someone invariably asks about this!). The presentations were substantive and the Q&A was nothing short of lively.

Let us know if you want us to email you the recording.

Here is our summary of the seminar:

What does an intergroup rep do?

-attends the monthly MAIA reps meeting

-votes on major items: budget, bylaw changes etc.

-summarizes monthly meeting in home group’s business meeting

-announces events in home group's business meeting

-gets group conscience in advance of major votes

-brings ideas from the groups to the steering committee and MAIA reps meeting

-provides MAIA with birthdays, group donations

What services does MAIA provide?

-clearinghouse for information on local AA

-takes information-seeking calls and 12 step phone calls during the day

-provides public information via pamphlets and other

-manages the answering service and hotline

-collects 12th step calls sheets and assigns 12th step calls

-holds workshops

-holds events/picnics

-website: meeting schedule, service calendar, event calendar, event flyers, GSO/Area/District information

-distributes literature

-supplies meeting schedules

-publishes the Tippler newsletter

-liaison and unifying factor among groups

-provides forum for reports from standing committees

Examples of current MAIA issues coming up at rep meetings

-overall budget

-website update

-salary/bonus of Secretary

-nominations from groups for steering committee, or lack thereof

Steering committee information

-members include Chair, Treasurer, Alt Treasurer, Secretary, Past Chair, 5 at Large

-is like a board of directors for MAIA, which is a non profit organization

-oversees certain office operational matters: lease, telephone, furniture, budget process, copier, literature, ordering system, taxes etc.

-organizes and implements ideas coming from members and from groups through MAIA reps

-ideas generally come from members bringing to them, or from MAIA reps at meeting

-they will then form ad hoc committees if follow through is required



David Davis

Three over-40 celebrants this weekend


Dale S. 45 years (Seriously Sober)

Joe W. 43 years (Traditions)

Frances C. 40 years (Out of Town)

Please see the calendar for more details. Here is the Memphis-area roster of over-40s, to the best of our knowledge. If you know of an omission, please let us know. And let us know about your over-40 birthday celebrations and group anniversaries, so we can get them all on our calendar. We make our best effort to know the dates; however, our data isn't perfect . . . yet. We also make our best effort to attend these celebrations, record the speakers, get signed flyers, and photograph the birthday cards.


Nellie W., Pleasant Hill (49 yrs)

Shirley F., Central Gardens (46 yrs)

Elizabeth V., (45 yrs)

Ann C., WAAGL (42 yrs)

Maurice M., Unity (42 yrs)

Ann M., Central Gardens (41 yrs)

Frances C., Out of Town (40 yrs)


Colin R., Came to Believe (54 yrs)

Syl D., Bluff City (53 yrs)

Dave G. Pleasant Hill (52 yrs)

Frank M., Traditions (50 yrs)

Basil W., Solutions (49 yrs)

Ray D., Winchester (49 yrs)

Roy H., Out of Town (45 yrs)

Dale S. Seriously Sober (45 yrs)

Charlie M. Out of Town (44 yrs)

Bill S. Pleasant Hill (44 yrs)

Terry T., Winchester (44 yrs)

Milton McC., Traditions (44 yrs)

Joe W, Traditions (43 yrs)

Bill M. Central (40 yrs)

Dick D. Traditions (40 yrs)

Steve W. Millington (40 yrs)




David Davis

Highly successful TCYPAA2018 conference event reminds us of Memphis' holding ICYPAA in 1975

We applaud the Memphis-based Committee for holding such a fine event and we are grateful for the singular opportunity to display MAAC's traveling collection to such an enthusiastic group of younger people.

Be sure to check out the audio of much of the event on this site!


ICYPAA has been holding annual conferences since 1958's inaugural event in Niagara Falls, NY, themed "Youth Finds Serenity." Memphis Young People's Groups did not get started until the '72-73 timeframe. Under-40 back then was considered young in AA. Under-30 really young! The first meeting was held at Basil W.'s kitchen table, who was one of only three AA's in Memphis at the time whom we were able to pinpoint as being under thirty (Ray D. and Dale S. were the others). Basil had roughly three years of sobriety, which was the equivalent of multiples of that today.

Harold D. then became the primary organizer and his leadership was instrumental in quickly building Memphis Young People's AA into a strong group by '74. The ICYPAA conference was held in Indianapolis that year, with the next year's bid process handled in roughly similar fashion to the current system.

Despite more-than-a-little nay-saying on the part of old timers - "Young, dumb, inexperienced kids . . . just going to be a big orgy . . . just a bunch of hippies" - Harold D. led a small group to Indianapolis to make a bid for the 1975 conference. Basil, with his five years of sobriety and status as a drug and alcohol counselor for the railroad, was propped up as the senior figurehead of the outfit. The pitch centered on Memphis' really needing the convention and how much it would help the community. The rapid growth and strength of the YPG's here also provided strong pitch material.

Against long odds, Memphis got the bid! Then, according to Dale S., the sentiment was something along the lines of "oh my God, now what do we do?!" An experienced AA convention planner, Harriet, was brought in from San Francisco to help. As was someone from Philadelphia. Kitty Lu Abernathy was remembered as being particularly supportive, going against he grain of the mainstream sentiment of the older AA's in Memphis.

The convention was held at the Holiday Inn RiverMont August 29-31 and (according to Ray D.) attended by 1200 or so. The theme was "Coming of Age." It turned out to be a rousing success! A story about the conference and one of its attendees even appeared on the AP newswires in September. Please visit ICYPAA's archives for more information:!prettyPhoto



David Davis

MAAC attendance at the Pleasant Hill birthday celebration nets two significant long-timers

A couple, no less.

MAAC was invited to bring its traveling display and record the festivities and talk given by the inimitable Devereaux J. (Mustard Seed) at The Pleasant Hill Group last Saturday night January 6th.

There were eleven celebrants: three with over thirty years.

Bill S. celebrated 44 years and Bill H. celebrated 32.

Dave G. celebrated a whopping 52 years. Before this event, he had lurked beyond what we thought was the wide reach of MAAC's old-timer recognition apparatus.

Even better, Dave told us that his wife Nellie has 49 years of sobriety. (She had managed to elude MAAC's not-so-finely honed radar as well).

Perhaps we need to redesign our methodology for locating old timers with over 40 years!

Dave's time ranks him as the number three male in the entire Memphis area. Nellie is number one among females! (See below)

We are thrilled to recognize this couple and look forward to interviewing them ASAP.

Here's a list of the longest timers in Memphis by sex - at least to the best of our knowledge which, particularly given the above, might be just a tad incomplete at this point. Please let us know if so and we will republish accordingly.


Colin R., Came to Believe (53 yrs)

Syl D., Bluff City (52 yrs)

Dave G. Pleasant Hill (52 yrs)

Frank M., Traditions (50 yrs)

Basil W., Solutions (48 yrs)

Ray D., Winchester (48 yrs)

Roy H., Out of Town (45 yrs)

Dale S. Seriously Sober (44 yrs)

Charlie M. Out of Town (44 yrs)

Terry T., Winchester (44 yrs)

Milton McC., Traditions (44 yrs)


Nellie W., Pleasant Hill (49 yrs)

Shirley F., Central Gardens (46 yrs)

Elizabeth V., (45 yrs)

Ann C., WAAGL (42 yrs)

Maurice M. (41 yrs)

Ann M., Central Gardens (40 yrs)

David Davis

Bill Dooner Tribute

Born October 6, 1931 in Harlem, NY, Bill Dooner passed away on November 2nd at the age of eighty-six – with sixty-two years of sobriety, the most in the Memphis area. AA co-founder Bill Wilson was Dooner's first grandsponsor. His first sponsor's wife's story (by Ceil F), “Fear of Fears,” has appeared in the last three editions of the Big Book.

Bill Dooner was a singular man on many levels, not to mention a classic Horatio Alger story.

Harlem in the 1930s and 1940s stood out as one of the roughest and poorest sections of the country. The area consisted of a fragile agglomeration of locals infused with freshly arrived Irish, Italian,and Puerto Rican immigrants. Dooner's parents were both laborers of Irish descent – his father a longshoremen and mother a maid.

He first got drunk with his father in a bar at age six.

He fought prizefights, tended bar in a hooker joint, and ran numbers for the mafia before even reaching age ten.

The young Dooner garnered additional employment during this period with the Ash Can Crowd, whose signature activity centered on smashing storefront windows with said cans and grabbing whatever was readily available. This income was supplemented by ripping BX cable, zinc, and copper wire out of abandoned apartments . . . even toilet bowls were not safe from Dooner and his crew.

These activities and lifestyle ensured that Dooner became well-acquainted with virtually every reform school, jail, and prison in the New York city and surrounding area – including the worst of the worst: Sing Sing and Comstock.

Dooner ultimately returned to Sing Sing . . . to give AA talks.

When he first came in to AA in NYC at the age of nineteen in February, 1951, Bill Dooner was in all likelihood the youngest AA member in the world. Dr. Silkworth took him aside and said these reassuring words: "I know you belong here. Don't pay any attention to those who tell you that you're too young." Silkworth also presciently told Dooner that “one day AA will have lots of young people, people won't have to suffer as much, and bottoms will drop.”

Dooner attended meetings alongside Bill Wilson mainly at the Lenox Hill Group but also at the storied Manhattan Group, AA's original group that was started by Wilson in his Brooklyn home in 1937.

Bill Dooner achieved permanent sobriety at the age of twenty-three in Chicago on August 18th, 1955. He was dramatically lifted up from a death spiral as a pugilistic, rubbing alcohol-addled skid row alcoholic by a serendipitous spiritual encounter with a Catholic Priest. Father “Mac” found Dooner in the aftermath of yet another street brawl that had left him with blood dripping everywhere, with severe cuts over his eyes, and with black pus draining copiously from his ears. He was getting ready to commit suicide by jumping off a roof. Instead, Dooner returned to the flophouse where he was renting a room, went to bed, slept peacefully, and awoke with the desire to drink permanently removed.

By the age of thirty, Dooner had made his first million dollars. His business career was marked by significant creativity and innovation in numerous and varied segments: He launched twenty billboard companies, a chain of restaurants, a number of hotels, and significant other real estate -based ventures.

His innovative methods were detailed in the well-known business book he authored: “From Rags to Riches in Real Estate.” Dooner's signature was finding what he coined “the purple trees in the forest,” properties that were run down and seemingly of little value yet held great promise to the discerning eye.

A notable example was Dooner's noticing that – despite its significant potential value – the land next to the gas stations sprouting up along the country's new interstate system remained barren and litter-strewn. He capitalized on this opportunity by launching the Hen House restaurant chain with only a $15,000 investment. He sold it for ten million dollars.

Dooner later discovered that the saintly man who saved him, Father Ignatius McDermott, had dedicated virtually his entire adult life to helping skid row alcoholics. They ended up becoming close friends. Dooner built a seven story, 500 bed facility for him to manage: The McDermott Center. The two traveled to Rome together for an audience with the Pope.

Dooner also met with Mother Teresa.

He received three appointments from U.S. Presidents.

In 1989, he received the "Christian Businessman of the Year" award from Religious Heritage of America. He particularly loved being a board member of Operation Blessing, an organization that works with disaster torn countries across the globe. He also was a founding board member of Regent University in Virginia Beach.

Dooner's AA story appears second in the acclaimed volume 1000 Years of Sobriety, 20 People x 50 Years written by William Borchert and Michael Fitzpatrick. Borchert, a good friend of Dooner's, is also noted for his screenplay for the movie My Name is Bill W – which has achieved the status of being the most watched television movie of all time.

A champion of the underdog and underprivileged, Dooner was a passionate civil rights activist and marcher who financed fourteen minority-owned businesses and established drug and alcohol treatment centers serving those who didn't have an ability to pay.

Dooner was well-known for his particular brand of wicked, self-deprecating humor. As he would regularly point out, if the joke was not on him, then it wasn't humor at all – it was sarcasm.

Dooner's home group was Came to Believe, where he was a regular at the lunch and 5:30 meetings. His wife of fifty-eight years, Ellie, wrote: “He loved Alcoholics Anonymous because the program saved his life. He didn't just love the program, he loved alcoholics and was especially devoted to the newcomer. He said he saw himself in each one of them. Over his 62 years of sobriety, he was softened as a person and touched the lives of so many.”


David Davis

Major New Donation: Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book First Ed. Fourth Printing (March, 1943).

Richard W., a Memphian now-retired in Florida with 45 years of sobriety, stopped by the Archives table at the Memphis Bluff City Fellowship and introduced himself to Taylor. He observed our display, checked out the website, and chatted with Taylor for only a few minutes. Richard then casually mentioned that he now planned to donate to MAAC an Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book First Ed. Fourth Printing (March, 1943).

We were incredulous, to say the least, that someone we just met would be this generous and entrusting.

The book arrived two weeks later and is in fine condition.

First Ed. Fourth Printings of The Big Book are quite rare. The print run was only about 5,000, roughly in line with the numbers from each of the first seven printings.

The numbers mushroomed considerably after that - to 20,000 for the Eight and Ninth Printings, 25,000 for the 10th and 11th, 42,350 for the 12th, 50,000 for the 13th, and 49,800 for the 14th Printing.

There were two colors used for the Fourth Printing: The first 3,500 copies were green and the last 1,500 were navy blue. Consequently, the blue is more valuable. The copy donated by Richard W. is blue.

The Fourth Printing was the second-to-last to literally be a "big book," with attendant wider margins and 3/8" thicker paper. Bill Wilson and then-partner in Works Publishing Hank Parkhurst thought these features would help to add enough value to justify the considerable 1939 outlay of $3.50 (which translates to over $60.00 today).

All sixteen printings of the First Edition over its 1939-1954 lifespan share these two unique and noteworthy features: An unsigned Doctor's Opinion; page one in Arabic numerals starting with the Doctor's Opinion. The latter item meant that today's "first 164" was actually the "first 179" back then.

This particular book is even more singular from a Memphis AA historical standpoint because it contains an inscription to the memory of one of our three co-founders, Warren Clowers, who died of a heart attack on a business trip less than one year after Memphis's first formal AA meeting in January, 1944.   

We are extremely grateful and can't thank Richard enough!! Here's a link to the artifact gallery page on this site, which now proudly displays a picture of Richard's donation:

David Davis

District 20 into The Light

We are most pleased to report that District 20 is now officially reactivated. Leroy H. was elected as its first DCM in over five years at a meeting held Saturday October 29th at Last Chance Group. Three of the district's nine groups were represented - a good start!: Whitehaven Early Morning Sunrisers, Growing Flowers, and Last Chance. District members attending included Richmond, Garfield, Elaine, Mike, Sandra, Milton, Charles - and, of course, Leroy H.

Area 64 Delegate Tony S. gave an abbreviated version of his well-honed stump speech on AA service in general and at the district level specifically. Incoming District 21 DCM Larry K. amplified on a number of these points. Past Area 64 delegate and current MAIA steering committee member Don A. and Alternative District 25 DCM Mike S. both gave examples from their experience on the need for persistence in building AA service from the ground level. Stephanie S. talked (passionately!) about how contagious passion and enthusiasm are.

Tony was not shy about addressing these often controversial and potentially divisive issues within AA: Singleness of purpose, anonymity, special interest meetings, money, spirituality, other forms of recovery, religion, and apathy. Strong service at all levels helps to ameliorate these concerns.

Apathy is evidenced in our area by only 120 of the 600-odd groups participating in Area Assemblies. This percentage is not atypical.

Tony referenced page S20 of the Service Manual, which contains the late former Board Chairperson Bernard B. Smith's famous answer to the question of Why Do We Need a Conference (Assembly)?

“We may not need a General Service Conference to ensure our own recovery. We do need it to ensure the
recovery of the alcoholic who still stumbles in the darkness one short block from this room. We need it
to ensure the recovery of a child being born tonight, destined for alcoholism. We need it to provide, in
keeping with our Twelfth Step, a permanent haven for all alcoholics who, in the ages ahead, can find in
AA that rebirth that brought us back to life.

We need it because we, more than all others, are conscious of the devastating effect of the human urge
for power and prestige which we must ensure can never invade AA. We need it to ensure AA against
government, while insulating it against anarchy; we need it to protect AA against disintegrations while
preventing over integration. We need it so that Alcoholics Anonymous, and Alcoholics Anonymous alone,
is the ultimate repository of its Twelve Steps, its Twelve Traditions, and all of its services.”

Tony talked about how if the districts don't make decisions at their level, then it will be left to the areas. And if the areas don't make the decisions, then it will be left to the assemblies. And if the assemblies don't, then it will solely reside with the twenty-one trustees.

Here are a number of reasons why a district level service organization is of vital importance in helping to carry the AA message

  • Assures the right of the minority to be heard.
  • Ensures that the voice of the AA groups is heard within the entire AA service structure
  • Provides a vehicle for the delegate to receive the vote and voice of the group (including areas of concern)
  • Provides a mechanism for the delegate and area chairperson to summarize the actions of the assemblies and general service conferences
  • Provides a mechanism for the groups to get the information they need in general
  • Provides a mechanism for the groups to learn about AA literature and proposed changes to it
  • Ensures that the Area Assembly does not act as a governing body over anyone
  • Partners with other districts to hold Area Assemblies
  • Stimulates AA group involvement and participation
  • Provides an array of service positions that give opportunities for growth in recovery
  • Allows for free, open and unrestricted dialogue among AA groups in the area.
  • Pools the financial and human resources to stimulate "carrying the AA message" where it is beyond one group’s resources to do so
  • Creates district unity by holding fun events such as picnics, cook-offs, old-timer lunches, and holiday parties
  • Informs the district about the Traditions and Concepts by holding regular workshops
  • Spreads good ideas from individual groups to the entire district

Leroy has scheduled the first District meeting for December 2nd at 1:00 PM at The Last Chance Group. The Archives Committee looks forward to documenting this effort.

David Davis

Bluff City Archives table; Memphis and overall AA history talk

MAAC has a table at The Memphis Bluff City Fellowship displaying our latest iteration of the traveling collection - you can find it right in front of the main entrance. We have spent considerable time improving our display on a number of fronts. We do hope you like it. You will see either me, Taylor, or Dale manning it. We do look forward to chatting with you about Memphis and overall AA history. We may be slightly hidden by the large display monitor we have in front, but you'll eventually see us!

I gave a talk sponsored by District 24 on September 23rd entitled "AA History Through the Eyes of Memphis Old Timers." We covered a lot of ground in two hours. Here is the outline. I do have detailed notes on each of these topics if you would like to discuss and/or learn more. I will have them with me at Bluff City. Hope to see you there!






















David Davis

Ebby Thacher speaks in Memphis: 9/14/1958

Our good friend Mike Burns of Mountain Recordings recently donated a beautifully digitized version of the famous Ebby Thacher talk in Memphis made on 9/14/58, which is now front-and-center in the audio section of the site. This is arguably Ebby's best-known AA talk. He had about four years of sobriety at the time which, unfortunately, was about the most that Ebby was ever able to achieve.

This is what we know so far about this talk: His friend Dick B. asked him to do it, the audience can be inferred to be largely Memphian (so it is probably not a conference), Dick mentions "this meeting tonight," (so probably not a conference), Ebby thought he was only going to speak for 10-15 minutes (another hint that it is not a conference), there was a "remittance basket" passed at the end of the talk (a final hint that it was not a conference). Dick had known Ebby for 17 years; Jim Grate is another Memphian mentioned.

This book on page 212 also indicates that he spoke at a meeting, not a conference. ?id=UPAI5CwNmw4C&pg=PA212&lpg= PA212&dq="dr+bob+and+bill+w+ speak"+ebby++memphis&source= bl&ots=wa_xXDTbqb&sig=nSICD87J hbOUjkpsehLmFq_qtw0&hl=en&sa= X&ved=0ahUKEwi836Xry6TVAhVjxoM KHZbIB9IQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q= "dr bob and bill w speak" ebby memphis&f=false

Ebby covered a lot of ground: His childhood with Bill Wilson, his drinking career, his increased notoriety with Vermont law enforcement, the arrest that led to his meeting Rowland Hazard in the Vermont courtroom, his early experiences with the Oxford Group - and, of course, the famous AA founding moment with Bill W in November, 1934. He then talked about how he "rode herd" over Bill W. and spent a lot of time with him over the next year particularly at Oxford Group meetings.

Ebby also provided an interesting overview of the Manhattan Group in NYC started by Bill Wilson in his home in 1937.

His reference to the pre-AA 1930 volume "The Common Sense of Drinking" by Richard Peabody was particularly illuminating. Many AA scholars aver that numerous passages of the Big Book were inspired by Peabody. My own research indicates that this book was the best known work on alcoholism up to that point and contained this quote that was basically lifted for How it Works: ”Halfway measures are to no avail.” This book also contained the story about the businessman of thirty who quit drinking; additionally, it mentioned honesty, surrender as first step, and the disease concept of alcoholism.

Ebby talks about the difference between the alcoholic and the heavy drinker (Even though the heavy drinker might drink just as much in any given night, he isn't necessarily thinking of drinking again the next day; first thought of the alcoholic the next day is of the night before and of getting the next drink to bring the party back to life again)

He also talks about sponsorship (Don't take on 20 or 30 people; don't spread yourself too thin; take on one or two; once you put something in a man's mind, heart and soul -  you have to stick with him through tough spots and victories; it is up to you to help see that he gets on his feet)


Frank M.

A Retrospective

On August 12th Frank M. (Traditions) became the fourth member of the group of Memphis AA's with over 50 years of sobriety – joining Bill D. (62 years - Came to Believe), Colin R (52 years - Came to Believe), and Syl D. (52 years - Bluff City )

Frank is a vibrant, warm, sharp-witted renaissance man who has reinvented himself numerous times throughout a rich lifetime – who only retired in the last few years (at the age of 85) from his last career as a full professor (Emeritus) of marketing management at Christian Brothers University.

Frank's intellectual bent has apparently not interfered with his recovery too substantially (although he does enjoy taking copious notes in meetings and rumor has it the he has boxes of these notebooks stashed somewhere). A certain Traditions Group meeting Chairman (Joe) would invariably call on Frank early, ribbing him that he needed to share before his notebook got too full.

Frank was born in 1928 in Miles City, Montana. His mother was an identical twin. His grandfather was a well-known entrepreneur who built the Miles City Steam Laundry (now on the U.S. Historic Register). Frank remembers his mother referring to the town drunk, who spent the better part of his days aimlessly pulling a seventy-five foot rope up and-down-the street, as a “dipsomaniac.”

The family moved to Rapid City, SD while Frank was in high school. He graduated in just three years and then entered University of Colorado when only sixteen to study Chemical Engineering.

Already prone to depression and social anxiety, deepened by the social scene in college, Frank was quick to discover at a frat house beer party that alcohol seemed to solve these problems. Despite being terribly sick and hung over after an initial bender that lasted all afternoon, Frank was predictably undeterred and the drinking quickly progressed to heavy levels. Suffering from increasingly severe emotional problems, exacerbated by both alcohol and his father's death, Frank dropped out after two years.

Now back in Rapid City, Frank sold cars and continued to drink heavily (not necessarily in that order). He tells a funny story about selling a car to a prominent Sioux Indian chief who was less-than-pleased that his recently purchased machine managed to burn 18 quarts of oil on just a short trip. Rather than giving him his money back, Frank taught him how to disassemble practically the entire engine in order to fix the problem. He was lauded as a genius at that car lot ever since.

Two soldiers charged with reestablishing the Army's 109th reserve engineering combat battalion in Black Hills, SD convinced Frank to join up with the promise of soft reserve duty, a monthly cash paycheck, some camping fun in the summertime, and the issuance of a prized rifle. He got that . . . and much more – a ticket to Ft Bragg two years later to train for active duty in the Korean War.

Frank was a fast learner and hard worker who had already been quickly promoted in the reserves to tech sergeant from buck private. While in North Carolina, he would study at night for correspondence courses – something not generally done by enlisted personnel. The base colonel noted this and promoted Frank to the highest ranking sergeant in the entire battalion, a position normally requiring 15 years of duty.

A significant honor was bestowed on Frank in 1950 when he was not only invited to join the first Engineer Officer's Candidate School class since World War II but also selected for its prestigious combat engineering program. Frank then served in a combat zone in Korea, building small gravel airstrips for reconnaissance planes near the front.

Frank received a promotion and came home from Korea as a First Lieutenant. True to form, he quickly launched into a study program – this time using the GI Bill to graduate with a Chemical Engineering degree from the South Dakota School of Mining and Technology.

Soon thereafter, Trane Corporation hired Frank as a sales engineer. Back then, its air conditioners were considered to be a high technology product with an attendant complex selling process. After a few years, Frank was hired away by Worthington's air conditioner division and moved to Pittsburgh.

The unlimited expense accounts bestowed to him by these firms became problematic, in that Frank deployed them in large part to do copious amounts of boozing with clients (and alone) while on the road. While the drinking had been held in some check by the former military and school environments, it now went “off the pasture” resulting in horrific hangovers and vomiting spells, among other ills. Frank become increasingly isolated from his family. He remembers his wife keeping a large stash of cigars in the refrigerator so that Frank would theoretically not have to leave to buy them himself . . . which invariably resulted in his coming home drunk hours later. This ploy did not prove effective in keeping Frank away from the bottle.

In Pittsburgh on August 12,1967, after Frank came home stupefied yet again, his wife demanded that he call AA. To get her “off my back,” Frank did just that – and he never drank again. After listening to his story, the AA who was assigned the twelfth step job told him succinctly: “I think we have a mutual problem.” This man, who became Frank's sponsor, had been a Colonel in WWII who lost so many jobs thereafter that he had to work as a spike driver (gandy dancer) on the railroad before sobering up. He was now a top executive with the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce who had been sober 14 years.

Frank has fond memories of Pittsburgh-style AA, which has its roots in the Akron-Cleveland approach. There was a strong sense of being “one of the guys,” which Frank thinks sprang from Pittsburgh’s drinking culture where professionals and blue collar workers would belly up to the bar side-by-side. Hallmarks of Pittsburgh AA at the time were friendliness, closeness, and inclusion of families. Sweets were even ”served” to the drunks during the meetings. There were regular calls to do twelfth step work. The focus on the newcomer was “intense.” Alanon was big there, too, with a bevy of social functions held by Alanons in their homes.

Frank moved to Cleveland, “quickly picking up an MBA” at Baldwin-Wallace College. His memories of Cleveland AA are as fond as those of Pittsburgh. As is still the case there and in many other northern cities, speaker meetings were popular. Frank recalls groups sending postcards out to nearby groups with the names of the upcoming speakers. He also recalls an interesting custom of the Chairperson soliciting audience critiques after the talk. “The comments could be pretty rough if the speaker was full of himself. And a Shaker Heights guy coming to a working class area might really get it as well.” Like Pittsburgh, there was intense focus on the newcomer.

Frank particularly liked attending “home meetings” on the east side of Cleveland where Greek, Slav, or Italian hosts would serve ethnic cuisine on nice china before, during, and up to one hour after the meeting.

With sobriety, Frank became an even more sought after industrial products salesman, working a succession of high level jobs in Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Memphis. One of these companies specialized in selling the critical environmental control systems that cooled the new wave of mainframe computers being sold at that time by IBM, Honeywell, Sperry Rand, Control Data, and Burroughs. These room-sized behemoths were programmed via punch card and backed up with magnetic tape. Accruing to Frank's benefit was the fact that they got extremely hot.

Almost sixty years old and seemingly giving no thought to slowing down or retiring, Frank changed tacks and ventured into academia after being accepted by seven doctoral business administration programs. He chose the University of Memphis, receiving his PhD in 1990. He then launched into a 23-year teaching career at Christian Brothers, where he is now a professor emeritus.

Frank noted a few areas in which 1990's Memphis AA differed from the variety practiced up north. Meetings here leaned toward discussion as opposed to the speaker format; the occasional speaker meetings that Memphis did have in the 1990s were typically not eating meetings (this came later). Northern meetings had more “leads,” which is a hybrid speaker/discussion format in which the talk (the lead) is only about twenty minutes and then the meeting opens up for sharing along the lines of the talk. The Lord's Prayer is not used as much up north. Lastly, Frank reports that speakers up north were issued an appreciation card signed by the Chairman. He has a slew of them – one of which he has generously denoted to MAAC and is now a staple of our traveling collection.

Frank offers the following suggestions for newcomers: Spend as much time as possible with the older guys, hang close to your sponsor, don't hesitate to call other AA's frequently, realize that mutual contact is critical, trust the older guys' judgment, live one day at a time, join a home group, pick one actually near your home, and go to at least five meetings per week.

Even old timers should go to at least two meetings per week. A sponsor told Frank that two is the minimum because if it is just one, then missing that meeting could mean being without AA for two whole weeks. Making meetings is “absolutely critical” and to stop going is like “walking on death row.”

Frank describes his willingness in early sobriety as follows: ”I will make it like I have to cross a desert to get water”

From the start, Frank immensely enjoyed the camaraderie within AA and exhibited much enthusiasm for the program. So much so that the aforementioned Pittsburgh sponsor felt compelled to tell him: “Frank, just because you have been sober for a few months doesn't mean that you need to go running down the street telling everyone you are in AA.” Frank protested: “But why – these AA's are tremendous . . . they are men of steel.” The sponsor then retorted acerbically: “We have a good thing going here, Frank, I don't want you screwing it up.”




A Central Group Quadfecta

Four home group members celebrated 30-plus year anniversaries Saturday night. One of the celebrants, Bubba G (30 years)., summed it up this way: "I guess it is the sign of a good group that I came in fourth with thirty years." Bubba also noted that "if you don't change your behavior, it will affect your ability to be of service . . . and you will get drunk again." Bubba is the only one of the four who did not get sober in Central Group.

Michael B. celebrated 30 years. He lives in Gulfport now but still considers Central to be his home group. Sam R. lovingly introduced him as "a goofy little dork." MIchael boils longevity in AA down to just two critical factors: "Don't drink and don't die." He also compared himself before AA to the Flounder character in Animal House whom Dean Wormer scolded as follows: "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son." One of his earliest memories of Central Group was of Bud partially disrobing and telling him that it was a clothing optional meeting. 

Sam R. celebrated 32 years. He told me that, before his arrival, Central Group "was nasty and needed someone to clean it up." So he was just the man for the job and came wearing a suit. Sam waxed particularly nostalgic about the smoke-filled, 2 1/2 inch shag carpet that was apparently a hallmark of the group's 940 S. Cooper meeting place.

Bill M. became the 23rd identified Memphis area AA with over 40 years sobriety.  He said that the secret to sobriety is as follows: "Read the instructions . . . and follow them." When not imparting his AA experience, Bill makes himself available as a Rent-A-Santa. 


Central Group's 5th anniversary at its current location held on July 16

Central's characterization of its celebration as a fifth anniversary (although certainly accurate on its face) is more-than-a-little understated, in view of its status as Memphis's oldest AA group. Also known in its early days as The Memphis Group, The 152 1/2 Madison Group, The Central Group Meeting Rooms, and The Alcan Clubhouse – the first incarnation of the Central Group was launched in the Chamber of Commerce Room of the Peabody Hotel in January, 1944. If it weren't for a few inactive years in the late 60's, it would have the words "continuously operating" appended to oldest. (That honor now goes to The South Memphis Group).

Jim K. gave an in-depth and fascinating talk on the group's history up to the 1970's. One particularly interesting snippet: Central's name was derived from being “centrally located” between the YMCA and Peabody Hotel, where the two more informal predecessor meetings had been held until they joined forces to officially become The Central Group at the 152 Madison Avenue location.

It should be noted that Jim has spent over a year in close communication with GSO archivists doing a substantial amount of primary research, culminating in his producing a fifteen page group history (which can be found on Central Group's page on this site).

Central Group's early history essentially mirrors Memphis AA history, so Jim's piece is of substantial enduring value to the MAAC effort overall and a very nice complement to Kitty Lu A.'s 1991 effort entitled “How A.A. Got Started in Memphis, TN” (which can also be found on this website, under Memphis AA History).

During breaks from his emcee and DJ activities at the event, Jim told me that the digitization of much of GSO's archives material has made it easier for the GSO archivists to access historical documents such as group correspondence. That little tidbit will hopefully serve as a motivating factor for me to accelerate my efforts to collect from GSO vital early documents from Memphis AA history. I hope other groups will also avail themselves of this terrific resource. Thanks for all your hard work, Jim, and to the Central Group for putting on such a memorable anniversary affair!



Primary Purpose turns 37!

Primary Purpose is 27 years old in its current incarnation yet 37 years when viewed as a continuation of the Bartlett Group - which makes sense because its group number has stayed the same.

MAAC records show that Primary Purpose is one of only approximately fifteen Memphis Area groups operating in 1980 that is still in existence.

Two current members (Robert H. and Alan R.) and one former member (Cary C.) teamed up to give a humorous and informative fifteen minute history of the group.

In the late 1980's the church hosting the Bartlett Group asked them to curtail smoking activities; since virtually everyone smoked, the meeting was moved to accommodate smokers. Smoking was very important to the group.

The name was officially changed to Primary Purpose 4/7/89 and the group moved to its current address. The group has moved around in the current building a couple of times. Most recently, it moved downstairs for more space, better visibility, and an extra bathroom.

The current meeting place used to be a dance studio, so had a wooden floor initially that was quite noisy.

This is an exceptionally tight, fun-loving, and caring group. Some particularly funny anecdotes included the go cart racing activities at the local Putt-Putt (few had driver's licenses!), soap box derbies, chili cook offs on 100 metal chairs, and gong shows with satellite dish trophies.


Joe B.'s talk wove his experience, strength, and hope into a format structured around the 12 steps. It was riveting.

He started things off by passing around a piece of 150 year-old roofing tile from Bill W.'s childhood home with an AA slogan on one side and inscriptions on the other.

Among many topics - Joe talked about being around AA but not being within AA, about how AA"s love each other and make no judgments, and about the problems with a la carte recovery.

He also talked about spiritual experience, spiritual awakening, and personality change essentially meaning the same thing.

He drilled into newcomers how "desperation has an expiration date." So one must always do the work.


Two memorable talks at MAIA's Founder's Day event June 10, 2017

Marshall C. and his preparation team ensured that Memphis AA's enjoyed a wonderful Founder's Day event, highlighted by Dale S's (44 years-Seriously Sober) AA talk and Marion C's AA history talk.

Marion expertly and entertainingly covered the period from Roland H's treatment with Dr. Jung up to June 10, 1935, when Dr. Bob performed a major surgery just three days after his last bender, fortified by one bottle of beer given to him en route by Bill W.  Some of the stories Marion told were hilarious, particularly the ones about Bill, Ebby T., and the pilot falling out of the plane in Manchester, VT . . . and the infamous Ebby T. pigeon-shooting episode.

Dale S.'s talk showed his colors as one of the true Elder Statesmen of Memphis AA.  His comments about AA's ability to thrive even through the 1970s (drugs, sex, rock and roll, special interest groups, Bill W's death) were particularly noteworthy and encouraging. Dale pointed out that AA does change over time, and for the better! Dale also strongly emphasized how important the Traditions have been in keeping AA together through potentially difficult times.

MAAC recorded both talks and they will be available without restriction. If they are not yet up on the website, please email us and we will be happy to send you copies.



2nd of two recent articles on the Big Book manuscript auction and lawsuit

Highlights of this piece include:

  • It’s one of the bestselling books ever; over 30 million copies sold in 43 languages.
  • the Library of Congress in 2012 named one of the 88 “Books that shaped America,” ranking it first in nonfiction. Profiles in History, which has declined to comment on the case, states that The Big Book is one of the most influential of the 20th century. Historian Ernest Kurtz—who wrote Not God, explaining the difference between spirituality in AA and an actual religion—called the book “the most important nonfiction manuscript in history.”
  • The original printer’s copy, covered with handwritten notes and edits, is valued between $2 million and $3 million. It’s up for auction on June 8 and causing a kerfuffle.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous World Services (AAWS) in New York, which runs the US and Canadian chapters of the organization, broke with tradition to sue in an effort to stop the auction.
  • In a complaint filed in New York state court on May 22, the organization named Ken Roberts (the current owner), auctioneers Profiles in History, and Questroyal Fine Arts, a New York gallery that recently displayed the manuscript ahead of the upcoming sale.
  • AAWS wants to block the sale next month is demanding the original manuscript’s return. Its filing explains the gravity of the situation:
  • Commencing litigation is not something that AAWS generally does, since it focuses its energies on serving the fellowship and the still-suffering alcoholics. Perhaps even more importantly, the fact that a central tenet of AAWS’s principles is to avoid controversy underscores just how critical of a threat to its history and mission [it] views the current circumstances of a known public auction of the manuscript.