Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Facts about the Church Life of A.A.'s Dr. Bob

A.A. Cofounder Dr. Bob and the Records of His Church Affiliations

By Dick B.

© 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved


This piece on Dr. Bob will consist primarily of the record of a meeting on Maui with a great Christian lady from Akron, and the correspondence which she graciously undertook to flesh out the details of Dr. Bob’s church life during the period the Smiths resided in Akron, Ohio.

Religious Data We Had Previously Researched and Recorded

Some of the initial details we had before this new investigation came from my research in Akron. There I interviewed Dr. Bob’ daughter, Sue Smith Windows, as to churches her father and mother attended in Akron, and the Sunday Schools she and her brother attended. I interviewed Dr. Bob’s son, Smitty, and his wife, Betty, to the same end. I also interviewed Congressman John F. Seiberling and his two sisters to learn the churches Henrietta and her children were affiliated with. And, by work with the daughter of T. Henry Williams, I learned the Baptist and Methodist affiliations that T. Henry Williams and his wife Clarace had in the pertinent years. Much of our later findings about Dr. Bob’s early church years were obtained during a total of three weeks that my son Ken and I spent in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, during 2007 and 2008 researching the Smith family’s membership, leadership, and attendance at North Congregational Church of St. Johnsbury and its Sunday school and Christian Endeavor society. We also learned of the extensive Christian and Bible study exposure that Dr. Bob had with daily chapel, weekly Congregational church attendance, and Bible study while he attended St. Johnsbury Academy.

We had previously published the information about Dr. Bob’s membership (and that of his wife Anne) in the Westside Presbyterian Church in Akron; the attendance of the Smith children at several Akron Sunday Schools; and Dr. Bob’s joining of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Akron a year or so prior to his death.

Those earlier details are embodied primarily in the titles Dick B., Dr. Bob and His Library; Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939; Dick B., The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous; and Dick B. and Ken B., Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous: His Excellent Training in the Good Book as a Youngster in Vermont. All can be found through Amazon or the titles pages on my main Web site.

The New Findings about the Smith Family’s Presbyterian Affiliations

The following are excerpts (with email addresses removed) concerning the recent investigation:

·         Aloha, Sally!

Thank you.

Dick B.'s son, Ken

·         On Thu, May 10, 2012 at 4:34 PM, Sally Phillips wrote:


I hope this info helps.

Sally Phillips

  • First Presbyterian Church, pastor Mark Ruppert
  • Office hours are Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm.
  • Our email address is
  • Our fax number is 330-434-5190.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Thu, May 10, 2012 at 5:49 PM
Subject: Fwd: (no subject)
To: sgp

From: marge.beatty
To: Margo
Sent: 5/10/2012 11:24:46 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: RE: (no subject)

Hi Margo,

The information you have about Dr. Bob and his wife Anne joining Westminster on June 3, 1936, as charter members, by Letter of Transfer is correct.  They were suspended from the rolls on April 3, 1942 because of no attendance or participation.  We do not keep the Letters of Transfer and our records do not show where they transferred from.  However, on a hunch, I called First Presbyterian Church on E. Market Street in Akron, Ohio to see if they could have transferred from there. Westminster was a mission church of First Presbyterian in the rapidly growing west Akron area before Westminster formed in 1936 under its own charter.  Their records show that Dr. Bob and his wife Anne joined First Presbyterian on December 17, 1933, and then were transferred in May of 1936.  Their records do not show any information other than when they joined and when they were transferred.


From: Margo Dolph
Sent: Wednesday, May 09, 2012 4:14 PM
Marge Beatty
Subject: Fwd: (no subject)

Hi, Marge!

   Congrats on your upcoming retirement.

     I'd bet you remember Sally Phillips, a former member of Westminster, who sent me the following e-mail.  She met Dick B. in Hawaii who is doing a book on AA's roots in Akron. If you are able to answer any of the questions in the latter part of Sally's e-mail below that would be great. I can forward them to her or you can use her address you see below.



From: sgp
To: Margo
Sent: 5/8/2012 10:41:59 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: Re: (no subject)

Hi Margo,

Here's the info that "Dick B",….  would like to have.  His card reads writer, historian, and retired attorney. I am willing to contact her if you run out of time. I will handle questions 3 and 4. My mom is doing better. Thanks for asking.

Any help you can give would be great!



PS- I could meet with Marge on Friday, May 25 in the morning or run over at lunch (time somewhat flexible)

Background on A.A.’s Dr. Bob by Ken B. 

Robert Holbrook Smith (A.A.’s “Dr. Bob”) was born on August 8, 1879, in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. The church he was raised in was North Congregational Church, St. Johnsbury. He graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy (the equivalent of high school) in the summer of 1898. He began his first year at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in the fall of 1898 and graduated with the class of 1902.

He made a statement on page 172 in his personal story in Alcoholics Anonymous (the “Big Book”) that is of considerable interest to us:

From childhood through high school I was more or less forced to go to church, Sunday School, and evening service, Monday night Christian Endeavor and sometimes to Wednesday evening prayer meeting. This had the effect of making me resolve that when I was free from parental domination, I would never again darken the doors of a church. This resolution I kept steadfastly for the next forty years, except when circumstances made it seem unwise to absent myself.

He was free from “parental domination” by no later than the fall of 1898 when he left for college at Dartmouth. That would make 40 years 1938. But his statement was “forward looking”; i.e., he said “when I was free from parental domination.” So the 40 years started sometime before he left for college in the fall of 1898.

We know that Dr. Bob and his wife Anne were charter member of the Westminster United Presbyterian Church in Akron, Ohio; and they joined the church on June 3, 1936. We also know that they came to the Westminster church by “letter of transfer.”

Question 1: What church did they transfer from?

Question 2: Can you get a photocopy of that “letter of transfer” and mail it to us? Or, can you (or the church) scan the “letter of transfer” and send it to us as an attached file by email to:

Question 3: If you able to get the facts as to the church from which they transferred to Westminster, what details can you find about when they first attended and/or joined the earlier church?

Question 4: As to the earlier church, can you get a photocopy or scan of any written evidence of their attendance/membership at that church?

Question 5: If you cannot get written evidence as to the earlier church, could you please get the name, date, time, church position, telephone number, email address, etc., of the person/people providing you with the information so that we actually give a source that other people can check?

Thank you for any help you can give.

Dick B.’s son, Ken

On Sun, May 6, 2012 at 7:32 PM, <Margo > wrote:

Hi, Sally!

   Hope you've had a good week! Sure is flying!!

   I wanted to check w/ you to make sure I was "barkin up the right tree" on what you wanted me to check on at Westminster. Marge Beatty is FINALLY retiring June 1 so I thought I'd better call this week w/your question. Wasn't it---when/how long was Dr. Bob a member there? and anything else I can find out.

   Have a good week Ben will be home either really late Tues. after he graduates or he'll wait and drive all day Wed..

   Hope things are going a bit better w/your mom.  


Synopsis of Dr. Bob’s Church Life as of Investigation in 2012 by Dick B.

·         Dr. Bob, his parents Judge Walter and Susan Smith, his grandmother, and his foster sister

all were frequent attenders and much involved in North Congregational Church of St. Johnsbury up to the date of Dr. Bob’s departure for Dartmouth in the fall of 1898.

·         Dr. Bob was active, as were his parents, in the church’s Young People’s Society of

Christian Endeavor.

·         During his attendance up to graduation at St. Johnsbury Academy (1894-1898), Dr. Bob regularly attended daily chapel, regularly attended required Congregational church services each week, and regularly attended Bible study each week.

·         Dr. Bob had said he had joined a church at the suggestion of the Oxford Group people with whom he and Anne met beginning in 1933. But we had learned only that he and Anne had joined and become charter members of Rev. Wright’s Presbyterian church in 1936.

·         Now we have confirmed what Dr. Bob said about the earlier period. Dr. Bob and Anne joined the First Presbyterian Church on E. Market Street in Akron on December 17, 1933, and were members there until “by letter of transfer” they became charter members of Rev. Wright’s Presbyterian Church in May of 1936. They remained affiliated with that church until April of 1942—long after A.A. was founded and after the Smiths had left their Oxford Group affiliations and connections with T. Henry Williams behind them.

·         I know from my examination of church records with the Rector Dr. Richard McCandless that Dr. Bob had become a communicant at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Akron not long before his death. And the Eulogy at his death was conducted by Rev. Dr. Walter Tunks of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

·         I have also heard it said that Anne Smith joined the St. Paul’s Church; but that information did not come from its rector Dr. McCandless, nor from the church records I did examine. That question therefore remains unresolved until and unless a further search of church records as to Anne makes the facts clear.

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