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"The Vicious Cycle"
B., Washington, D.C.
(p. 238 in 2nd and 3rd editions, p. 219 in the
it finally broke a Southerner's obstinacy and destined
this salesman to start A.A. at Philadelphia."
was twelfth stepped into the fellowship on January 8, 1938.
But he had a slip in June of that year. His last drink was
June 16, 1938.
was described as having red hair, and being rather slim,
at least in his last years.
spent his early life in Baltimore where his father was a
physician and a grain merchant. They lived in very prosperous
circumstances, and while both parents drank, sometimes too
much, they were not alcoholics. Home life was reasonably
harmonious. There were four children, and both of his brothers
later became alcoholics. One of his brothers died from alcoholism.
His sister never took a drink in her life.
attended public schools until thirteen, then was sent to
an Episcopal school for boys in Virginia where he stayed
four years. But there he developed a real aversion to all
churches and established religions. At school they had Bible
readings before each meal and church services four times
seventeen he entered the university to please his father
who wanted him to study medicine as he had. There he took
his first drink and he always remembered it. He blacked
out the first time he drank.
the spring of 1917, because he feared he would be kicked
out of school, he joined the Army. Due to his OTC training,
he entered with the rank of sergeant, only later to come
out a private.
his military service he became a periodic alcoholic. On
November 5, 1918, the troops heard a false report that the
Armistice would be signed the next day, so Jim had a couple
of cognacs to celebrate, then hopped a truck and went AWOL.
His next thing he knew he was in Bar le Duc, many miles
from base. It was November 11. The bells were ringing, and
whistles blowing, for the real Armistice.
in the States he migrated from job to job, unable to hold
any for very long. The boss who fired him from one job was
Hank P. ("The Unbeliever" in the 1st edition.) In the eight
years before he stopped drinking, he had over forty jobs.
January 8, 1938, his boyhood friend Fitz M. ("Our Southern
Friend") sent one of his early sponsees, Jackie W., to try
to help him. When Jackie got drunk Jim called New York and
was told that the two of them should come to New York. Hank,
who had fired him eleven years before, offered Jim a job
working with him and Bill W. at Honor Dealers. (See bottom
of page 149 of the Big Book.) Hank fired him again, at least
briefly, when he had his slip in June of that year.
met his wife, Rosa, on a 12th step call. (The only time
he ever 12th stepped a woman.) They were married a year
later, and reportedly both did much service work in A.A.
and were elected to various offices.
February 13, 1940, with about two years of sobriety, Jim
moved to the Philadelphia area and started a group there.
He also helped start A.A. in Baltimore.
wrote a history of A.A. in Philadelphia, and also wrote
a history called "The Evolution of Alcoholics Anonymous."
It contains some factual errors and his memory differed
in spots from some of the other early A.A. members and of
Bill W., but it is the first historical piece written about
is usually given credit for the third tradition, that the
only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
He also is credited with the use of "God as we understood
Him" in the Steps. (Jim, an agnostic, was militantly opposed
to too much talk of God in the Big Book, but he said later
that his agnostic stance had mellowed over the years.)
he updated his story for the May 1968 edition of the A.A.
Grapevine, he told how in the early days in New York he
started fighting all the things Bill and the others stood
for, especially religion, the "God bit." But he did want
to stay sober, and did love the understanding Fellowship.
Soon he was number four in seniority in the New York group.
said he learned later that the New York group had a prayer
meeting on what to do with him. The consensus seemed to
have been that they hoped he would either leave town or
get drunk. He added that his spiritual growth over the past
thirty years had been very gradual and steady.
he moved to San Diego, CA, where he lived until his death.
After breaking his hip in a freak accident from which he
never fully recovered, Jim was often in a wheelchair. Following
a long illness, he was admitted to the Veterans Administration
Medical Center, La Jolla, California, where he started an
A.A. meeting which still meets on Thursday nights.
died in the VA hospital on September 8, 1974. He and Fitz
M. are buried just a few yards apart on the grounds of Christ
Episcopal Church at Owensville, MD.
thanks to Ron L. of California for information on Jim's