Biography: Abby G., “He Thought He Could Drink like a Gentleman”
Albert (Abby) G., Cleveland, Ohio.
(p. 210 in 2nd and 3rd editions.)
Pioneers of A.A.
“But he discovered that there are some gentlemen who can’t drink.”
Abby’s date of sobriety was April 1939. Clarence S. was his sponsor. He was one of the Roman Catholics who had some problems about attending Oxford Group meetings.
He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1889, the last child of a family of eight. His parents were hard working people, but his father was a strict disciplinarian. But Abby was slick and cute enough to be safe from his father’s discipline. So he grew up thinking rules were for others, not for him. At sixteen he was picked up by the police and brought home drunk. He got expelled from various schools but finally graduated from the eighth grade.
He obtained a job as a toolmaker’s apprentice and later worked for large companies and gained experience.
Then he attended a technical high school and at eighteen went to night school to get a high school diploma. He then entered an engineering college, then law school and passed the bar exam. He later became a patent attorney.
He married at twenty-eight, while in law school, and had two children by the time he was admitted to the bar. During this time he had been too busy to drink much, but about four years after he became a partner in his law firm, he began, like others during Prohibition, making elderberry blossom wine.
Soon there were automobile wrecks, when the police escorted him home, but not to jail. On business trips to New York he would disappear and wind up in Philadelphia or Boston. He began firing clients before they fired him. His partners suffered from his conduct, but tolerated it because he still managed to hang onto a very substantial practice.
His wife learned about the fellowship from her hairdresser who told her about her brother-in-law, Clarence S. (“The Home Brewmeister”), who had been quite a drinker, and about some doctor in Akron who had straightened him out. (This was not the same sister-in-law who married Hank P.) For about nine months she prayed constantly that Abby would find this solution that Clarence had found. Her prayers were answered: one day Clarence and his sister-in-law called at the house.
For some reason he didn’t like Clarence at first. Clarence thought Abby looked down on him because Abby was an educated man, a patent attorney, and Clarence only had a high school education. But Dorothy S., Clarence’s first wife, reported that although Abby was well educated, the person in Akron that made the most impression on him was a man who hadn’t gone beyond the fourth grade. (This may have been Dick S., “He Had to be Shown.”)
Abby resisted joining A.A., but Clarence would show up at saloons where he was drinking to drag him home. Finally, Bill W., while visiting Cleveland, called on Abby and persuaded him to enter the hospital. Bill and Dorothy S. drove him there. While he was still in the hospital, his wife volunteered their large home as a meeting place in Cleveland. Thus, the first Cleveland meeting was held at Abby’s home.
Bill W. gave him credit for starting the principle of rotation of jobs in A.A. Abby had been chairman of the central committee in Cleveland (the first in the nation). It consisted of five men and two women. But Abby was older (in years) than most of the members, and had family responsibilities. So he was happy to step down after a few months. He suggested that one man and one woman drop off each month to be replaced by the next in line according to seniority.