Bill Wilson's Call to Reverend Walter Tunks

Postcard from Akron, Ohio

A Business Trip to Akron

On May 11, 1935 Bill W. went on a business trip to Akron, Ohio. During this trip Bill was tempted to drink alcohol in the hotel’s bar.

 Bill W. learned from Thacher that cravings could be controlled by conversing with somebody who also experienced cravings. To prevent this from happening he telephoned a local minister from his hotel, asking if the minister knew of any alcoholics he could talk to:

Bill Wilson's Call to Reverend Walter Tunks

 The call that set in motion the final stages of A.A.’s founding was to a clergyman. There are a number of versions of exactly what happened. In a recording on file at the G.S.O. Archives, Bill W. recalls that phone call to the Rev. Walter Tunks, made in 1935 from the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel in Akron, Ohio:

Mayflower Hotel - Akron, Ohio

“...well, I’ll call up Tunks. And so I called up the good man and he came on the wire and I announced that I was another drunk looking for a drunk to work on. Well, that request he thought a little unusual. I imagine he had worked on drunks singly, but bringing them together in squads didn’t seem to be an appealing idea. However, he referred me to another man [Norman Shepherd] who belonged to a religious group and said,  ‘Now this fellow can do the business.’ So I talked with the second gentleman and he was just leaving town it was Saturday but he gave me the names of about ten other people....”

  Norman Sheppard directed him to a local Oxford Group member named Henrietta Seiberling. Seiberlings group has attempted to help a local alcoholic named Dr. Bob Smith but without success.
The Meeting at The Gatehouse

 Henrietta Seiberling, daughter-in-law of the founder of the Goodyear Rubber Company, invites Bill Wilson to the Seiberling estate, where she lives in the gatehouse (below). She tells him of the struggle of Dr. Robert S., and the meeting of the two men takes place the next day — Mother’s Day, May 12, 1935. In the privacy of the library, Bill spills out his story, inspiring “Dr. Bob” to share his own. As the meeting ends hours later, Dr. Bob realizes how much spiritual support can come as the result of one alcoholic talking to another alcoholic.

Henrietta Seiberling and the Gatehouse
Henrietta Seiberling Founders Day 1971
Bill’s Group Within a Group

 Bill is asked to speak at a large Oxford Group meeting at Calvary House. His subject is alcoholism, and after the meeting Bill is approached by a man who says he desperately wants to get sober. Bill invites the man to join him and a small group of alcoholics who meet at nearby Stewart's cafeteria after the meetings. Bill is unsuccessful in his efforts to reach these alcoholics. Eventually his ability to help alcoholics grows, after he seeks counsel from Dr. William Silkworth of Towns Hospital. Dr. Silkworth suggests he do less preaching and speak more about alcoholism as an illness.
Dr Bob S. and Bill W.

The Year

1935

May 12th

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