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G. (Hank) P.
by Mike O. of
"The Just Do It Big Book Study Group of Alcoholics
Anonymous," DeBary, Florida.
Hank P. was a business dynamo who was
the first alcoholic to recover in New York, following Bill
W. Thus, Hank was New York's AA#2. His was a vital contribution
to AA: without Hank P. the Big Book might never have been
was born March 13, 1895, in Marion, Iowa into a family that
had lived in that area for several generations. He was so
gifted an entrepreneur that an associate once described
him as being able to produce a good idea a minute for business.
He had been a Standard Oil of New Jersey executive who was
fired because of his drinking. Hank sought treatment at
Charles B. Towns Hospital in Manhattan. He met Bill W. there
during the autumn of 1935.
P. was the first New York alcoholic other than Bill to stay
sober for any substantial amount of time. Hank was sober
approximately four years, before he drank again.
is mentioned in "The Doctor's Opinion" (page XXIX
of the Big Book). Doctor Silkworth describes him as "--a
case of pathological mental deterioration." But, Silkworth
added, "He adopted the plan outlined in this book."
And, the doctor admitted he hardly recognized Hank when
he saw him a year later.
But, perhaps more importantly,
Hank is credited with contributing the major interview around
which Bill wrote the chapter, "To Employers."
(Some historians believe that Hank himself actually wrote
this entire chapter except the first two paragraphs.)
Bill and Lois W. lost their home at 182 Clinton Street,
Brooklyn Heights, they moved to Montclair, New Jersey on
April 26, 1939, and lived with Hank and his wife, Kathleen
Nixon P. Hank and Kathleen had moved to Montclair from Teaneck,
after Hank got sober. (He's noted, again, in the Big Book,
on page 163, as "--a man who was living in a large
community." That reference is to Montclair.)
P. could be quite personable and was considered a handsome
man. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and red-haired and had
been a good athlete in school. He and Kathleen had two sons:
Henry G. P., Jr. (Hank, Jr., and Robert Stewart P. (Bob)
and at least one grandson.
was an agnostic when he came to AA. But, he evolved spiritually
into a belief in a "universal power." He and Jim
B. led the fight against any mention of God in the Big Book.
Hank P. and Jim B. wanted to leave God out of the book altogether,
to make it a psychological book and refer only to the spiritual
nature of recovery, produced by the practice of the principles
of the Twelve Steps. The verbal war over the mention of
God produced the compromise "---as we understood Him"
which became part of the Book.
P. was renting an office at that time at 11 Hill Street,
Newark. This office housed Hank's company, Honor Dealers.
It was a cooperative firm. Through it, gas station owners
could buy gasoline, oil and automotive parts at lower prices
through joint purchasing. Some thought it was Hank's way
of getting back at Standard Oil for firing him. But, the
business went nowhere. It is considered likely that Bill
authored the first two chapters of the Big Book in this
Hill Street office.
then moved to another office at 17 William Street in Newark,
one block north of the Hill Street address. The new office,
#601, faced east, the preferred exposure. But, Hank's money
ran out, he didn't pay the rent and the county sheriff evicted
him. He then moved to a smaller office on the same floor
of the same building, #604, which faced west. Bill dictated
much of the remainder of the Big Book to Ruth Hock in this
building. Ruth was a secretary for Honor Dealers and served
in a similar capacity to the energetic effort, which would
It was Hank who was
the driving force behind the idea of forming a private company
to publish the Big Book. The Trustees of the Alcoholic Foundation
had opposed the idea of self-publishing. There were rewards,
to be sure. Self-publishing could produce a financial return
six times greater than author's royalties. But, among the
Trustees, the common feeling was that self-publishing was
risky, that most such enterprises failed out of ignorance
of the publishing business and that neither Bill nor Hank
knew anything about publishing. That opinion was expressed
by a majority of the Trustees at the Foundation's first
meeting, April 11, 1938. (The Foundation was established
on that date as a charitable, tax-exempt entity to provide
the movement with a legally formed, New York-based center.)
told Bill that since the Board of Trustees had not and would
not raise a cent for the publishing project, he and Bill
should not wait but should publish the book by themselves.
They had little or no money, so: Hank convinced Bill that
they should form a stock company and sell shares to their
fellow alcoholics. Not only did Hank guarantee Bill that
this approach would succeed, he insisted it was the only
way to get the Book published. Bill felt somewhat reassured
because a widely respected publishing executive, Eugene
Exman of Harper Brothers, had told him that drafts of the
first two chapters looked good and that a society like theirs
really should own, control and publish its own literature.
So: Hank and Bill formed
Works Publishing Company, Incorporated, on September 21,
1938. (Some historians say that the company never was legally
incorporated.) They issued six hundred shares of stock with
a par value of $25.00 per share. Bill and Hank each received
one-third of the shares. The remaining two hundred shares
were to be sold to their fellow alcoholics. Money from the
sale of stock would be used to pay expenses of the Newark
office and to enable Bill and Hank to continue their work
full time on the publishing project. The Alcoholic Foundation
would receive author's royalties from the book sales. Hank
signed the certificates as "President." Sales
P., the self-appointed "President," had handled
all the finances for Works Publishing. But, later, when
he was asked to account for the money, he had no records.
It appeared he had mixed the funds for Works, Honor and
the fledgling fellowship together, along with his personal
money and had no idea how to separate them.
publication date of the Big Book was April 1, 1939. It was
printed by Cornwall Press, in Cornwall, New York. The US
Copyright Office says there were 4,730 copies in the first
printing. The first ten copies were delivered April 10th
of that year to the Newark office Hank and Bill shared.
It was a joyous moment!
But, things soon went
downhill for Hank. First, Bill obtained a postal box for
the young fellowship across the Hudson River in lower Manhattan.
Bill felt this location was the most convenient for reaching
the area they intended to serve: New York City, Long Island
and New Jersey. Bill then proposed moving the Alcoholic
Foundation office itself to a point nearer the postal box.
He felt there was no need to keep an office in Newark; Hank
had closed Honor Dealers. But, since it had been his office,
Hank was upset about Bill's decision. The actual move, on
March 16, 1940, to 30 Vesey Street, Room 703, in lower Manhattan
angered Hank. And, when the furniture from his office moved
across the Hudson, Hank was furious, even though he had
sold the furniture to Bill. (That furniture remained with
Bill W. for the rest of his life. First it went to AA headquarters
in Manhattan. Later it moved to Bill's studio, "Wits
End," at his home, "Stepping Stones," at
Bedford Hills, in the rolling, wooded hills of picturesque,
suburban Westchester County, just north of New York City.)
Hank, this troubling episode appears to have been the least
of it. In other respects, he was beginning to collide with
life and getting bruised heavily in the process. He was
becoming (as Dr. Silkworth previously described it) "--restless,
irritable and discontented."
had taken a new job-one he did not want -- in western New
Jersey. He had intended to take the office, the furniture
and Ruth Hock with him.
Hank wanted to divorce his wife, Kathleen, and marry Ruth.
But, Ruth declined to go west with him and moved instead
to the young fellowship's new office in lower Manhattan.
Ultimately she said "No" to Hank's marriage proposal.
Hank blamed Bill for her refusal.
further resented Bill's asking him to turn in his stock
certificates in Works Publishing, Inc. Members of the fellowship
had decided in 1940 that all book sales profits should go
to the Alcoholic Foundation. They decided that Bill and
Hank should return their shares in Works Publishing. And,
they asked those other members who had purchased shares
of the stock to sell them to the Foundation at par value.
In this way, the alcoholics reasoned, the fellowship would
own the Big Book and anything it published in the future.
Bill and Dr. Bob were to receive author's royalties from
the book sales, so that they both might continue to devote
their full time to the affairs of the fellowship.
complied immediately. He turned in his shares of Works Publishing,
Inc. stock to the Alcoholic Foundation. But, Hank, who had
started drinking again, refused. He held onto the stock
until he appeared unexpectedly one day, scruffy, drunk and
destitute, at the New York office. He insisted the furniture
in that office was his and demanded payment for it, even
though he had been paid for it previously. Bill offered
to pay for it again if Hank would hand in his stock. Hank
accepted two hundred dollars and handed over his shares.
He subsequently accused Bill of taking advantage of him
in his drunken state. Later, Hank approached Bill several
more times claiming he had never been paid for the furniture
and Bill paid him again each time.
Hank learned that AA had granted Bill a $25.00 a week payment
from the sale of the Book. Hank considered the arrangement
wrong. He resented it and was said to have become quite
jealous of all the attention showered on Bill as A.A.'s
oldest son, Henry G. P., Jr., said later that Hank always
felt Bill had treated him unfairly with respect to the stock,
the revenue from the Book sales and his office furniture.
Years later sales of the Book mushroomed. But, Hank received
no share of the profits.
is difficult to say precisely when Hank returned to drinking,
but it appears to have been late in 1939. Lois W.'s diary
for September 6, 1939, says Hank was drunk. Hank's wife,
Kathleen P. had reported Hank was drinking on September
5th. He never recovered, completely, although there were
some occasional, brief periods of dryness.
and Kathleen divorced in 1939 and Hank married at least
two other women during a return to drinking that lasted
on and off for approximately eleven years. One of the women
he married and divorced was a sister-in-law of Cleveland
AA pioneer, Clarence S. He later married an oil heiress
from a wealthy Houston family. She died about 1950 of a
cerebral hemorrhage. Sources say Kathleen married a Wally
van A., who, they say, was involved, somehow, in the publishing
of the Big Book. (AA's Archivists at GSO New York say they
have no information whatever on anyone named Wally van A.)
Later, during a brief period of dryness, Hank re-married
Kathleen. Several sources say Kathleen was also an alcoholic:
an episodic or periodic drunk. Hank's obituary identified
Kathleen as his widow. Exact dates of these marriages, divorces
and the re-marriage have proven unavailable.
moved to Ohio and began spreading malicious stories there
about Bill, charging that Bill W. had diverted AA's money
to his own personal use. Despite the fact that Hank was
drinking, some Ohio AAs believed him, including Clarence
S., who had started AA in Cleveland. A number of the Ohio
AA's began calling for Bill's expulsion, accusing him of
financial trickery and dishonesty. One Ohio A.A. swore he
knew personally that Bill W. had taken as much as $65,000
from A.A. during the previous year. Several groups in Ohio
wanted to secede from A.A. because of the charges and turmoil.
meet the situation head-on, Bill and Dr. Bob, hosted a dinner
for all concerned in June 1942 in Cleveland. After dinner,
they all gathered in a hotel parlor, where a local committee,
complete with its own attorney and certified public accountant,
interrogated Bill. Both Bill and Dr. Bob quietly but firmly
denied all allegations and answered all questions. Bill
W. presented the committee with a recent audit of all of
A.A.'s financial affairs, showing, openly and clearly, his
25-dollar a week payment from sales of the Big Book. An
identical payment had been arranged for Dr. Bob. (Bob had
given some of his money to Bill and returned much of the
rest to AA.) And, although it had nothing to do with the
AA treasury, both Bill W. and Dr. Bob voluntarily told the
committee of the 30-dollar-a-week income each received from
a private fund set up to support them by John D. Rockefeller,
Jr. so that both of them could continue their AA work full-time.
The committee's CPA carefully examined the audit, read it
aloud, pronounced it accurate beyond question, and thus
completely exonerated Bill. The committee members apologized
the emotional scars remained for Bill W. All this grief
and scandal had been caused by a man he had helped to stop
drinking, a man who once had been his partner. Opinions
vary as to whether they ever completely settled their differences.
P. died January 18, 1954, at Mercer Hospital in Pennington,
New Jersey, within two months of his 59th birthday. Lois
W. said his death was due to drinking. Others claimed it
was pills. Some thought it was both. His obituary says only
that he died after a lengthy illness. Others noted that
Hank's disagreements with Bill and his subsequent resentments,
mostly over Big Book matters, apparently kept Hank P. from
returning to AA.
the pain and trouble he caused during the final years of
his life, Alcoholics Anonymous would appear to owe a huge
debt to Henry G. (Hank) P.. Ruth Hock, who was there for
the entire adventure, said the Big Book definitely would
not have been written without Bill and surely could not
have been published without Hank. His story, "The Unbeliever"
appeared in the first edition of the book that he was so
instrumental in publishing.
The archives of the AA General Service Office; AA publications:
"Alcoholics Anonymous", "Alcoholics Anonymous
Comes of Age", and "Pass It On"; "Lois
Remembers" by Lois Burnham W.; "Bill W."
by Francis Hartigan; "Not-God" by Ernest Kurtz;
"Bill W. And Mr. Wilson" by Matthew J. Raphael;
The Hopewell (N.J.) Herald; the US Copyright Office, Washington,
DC and AA historians Al R. and Joe H.
I'm grateful for the above sources. Any errors are my
Written/researched during 1997 by Mike O. of "The
Just Do It Big Book Study Group of Alcoholics Anonymous,"
DeBary, Florida. (Author Revised: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001.)