The Oxford Group Bill W and Beyond from Silkworth.net
In 1934, Ebby T., childhood friend of Bill W.’s, was about to be locked up as a chronic drunk in Bennington, Vermont. He was visited by three men from an Oxford Group; Shep C., Rowland H., and Cebra G. (A precursor to our Twelve Step work!) They later sent Rowland H. back alone to see Ebby. He acted as a sort of sponsor and told his story. He taught Ebby the precepts he had learned from the Oxford Group. Later, as we know, in December of that year, Ebby had his chance to relay these precepts to Bill W. Here they are, transcribed from a tape of one of Bill’s AA talks:
- We admitted we were licked.
- We got honest with ourselves.<
- We talked it over with another person.
- We made amends to those we had harmed.
- We tried to carry this message to others with no thought of reward.
- We prayed to whatever God we thought there was.
(We also have Bill’s handwritten copy of the above.)
Now we begin to see the emerging pattern of events in Akron and in the New York area in the ten year period before the start of AA. We see how, through the machinery of the Oxford Group and its key leaders, Frank Buchman and Sam Shoemaker, events conspired to make possible this meeting between Dr. Bob and Bill W. in Akron in 1935. Shep, Cebra, and Rowland were all three Oxford Group members. They were part of the business teams which were working around the country in various cities. In November of 1934, Ebby surrendered his life to God at the Calvary Episcopal Church mission run by Sam Shoemaker. (Sam had met Frank Buchman in China in 1918, and by 1934 was regarded as a major leader of the Oxford Group movement in the United States and was hosting their headquarters.) Ebby is staying at his mission. Bill W. shows up there drunk looking for Ebby, can’t find him, and goes to Towns Hospital.
Bill Duval recalls in a letter, “Bill W. told us at the mission that he had heard that Ebby, on the previous Sunday at the Calvary Church, had witnessed that with the help of God he had been sober a number of months.” Bill said that if Ebby could get help here, then he (Bill) needed help, and he could get it at the mission, also. Bill looked prosperous compared to our usual mission customers, (actually, he was wearing a Brooks Brother’s suit purchased at a rummage sale for $5.00!), so we agreed that he go to Towns Hospital where Ebby and others of the group could talk to him.
After his spiritual experience at Towns, Bill immediately made a decision to become very active in Oxford Group work, and to try to bring other alcoholics from Towns to the group. He visited the mission Oxford Group meetings and the hospital daily for four or five months, right up to the time of the Akron trip. No one stayed sober.
BILL W. AND THE OXFORD GROUP WORK
(Jim Newton enters the scene)
Rowland H., who rescued Ebby in August 1934, had a thorough indoctrination in Oxford Group teachings and he passed many of these along to Ebby and Bill W. Soon after his release from Towns Hospital at the end of 1934, Bill and the rest of the alcoholic contingent of the Oxford Group began gathering at Stewart’s Cafeteria in New York following their regular meeting. Shep C., then a member of the Oxford Group business team that included Rowland, Sam Shoemaker, and Hanford Twitchell, was also a recovering alkie. Lois W. talked of regular attendance at the Oxford Group meetings with Bill, Shep, and Ebby. James Houck, a nonalcoholic Oxford Group member in Frederick, Maryland, stated that Bill W. went to many Oxford Group meetings at the Francis Scott Key Hotel in Frederick and always centered on alcohol. He was obsessed with the idea of carrying the message. The conclusion is that Bill had a wide acquaintance in Oxford Group circles, not just confined to Sam and Calvary House. Bill told Houck that he worked on 50 drunks in the first 6 months with no success. Calvary House was Sam’s residence and contained an Oxford Group bookstore. Calvary Mission was at another location in the “gas house” district. Thousands of people passed through the mission where they offered lodging, free meals, and Oxford Group meetings every night. Tex Francisco was its superintendent in 1934 when Bill showed up there.