A.a.-Sam Shoemaker-Bill W. Connection

A.a.-Sam Shoemaker-Bill W. Connection

A.A.-Sam Shoemaker-Bill W. Connection


Dick B.

© 2010 Anonymous. All rights reserved


Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr.: The Almost-Forgotten, 12-Step Source


It shouldn’t take long for you to discover that people in the 12-Step and recovery community just don’t know much, if anything, about the Rev. Dr. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York. In case you are wondering, just ask an AA you know. A trusted servant, someone in “service,” a speaker, a writer, a sponsor, or a garden-variety alcoholic or addict.


This is the man Bill Wilson asked to write the Twelve Steps—but who declined. This is the man Bill Wilson called a “cofounder” of A.A. This is the man who was asked to address AAs at the earliest large conventions in St. Louis (1955) and Long Beach (1960). This is the man who learned of and supported Bill Wilson’s outreach to drunks from the earliest pre-A.A. days in 1934.


What Happened?


A.A. celebrated its twentieth anniversary at the St. Louis International Convention in 1955. Here is how Bill Wilson described the appearance of Sam Shoemaker at that convention:


There next came to the lectern a figure that not many A.A.’s had seen before, the Episcopal clergyman Sam Shoemaker. It was from him that Dr. Bob and I in the beginning had absorbed most of the principles that were afterward embodied in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. . . . Dr. Sam looked scarcely a day older than he had almost twenty-one years earlier when I first met him and his dynamic group at Calvary’s parish house in New York. [Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age (NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1957), 38-39]


Twenty years after A.A. was founded, an estimated 5,000 people were in St. Louis to celebrate the occasion. How come “not many A.A.’s had seen” Shoemaker before?


Several years ago, I was writing my extensive account of A.A.’s and Bill W.’s relationship with Dr. Shoemaker. As I completed the book, I phoned Dr. Bob’s son, Robert R. (“Smitty”) Smith, in Nocona, Texas. Smitty had provided me with lots of A.A. history, spoken at our A.A. history conference in California, and endorsed several of my books. So I asked him to endorse my Shoemaker book. His reply was: “Who is he?”


Not long ago, A.A. arranged some kind of “spiritual reunion” in St. Louis to celebrate the events held there many years before. They were featuring Father Edward J. Dowling, S.J., who had spoken at the 1955 International Convention. When I learned that nobody was addressing the Sam Shoemaker history, I inquired of A.A. servants in St. Louis and New York about the matter. I asked that they also present, or allow me to present, materials on Shoemaker. The request was denied!


How could this be? I don’t know. But I do know that AAs and their “leaders” have missed a lot pertaining to their Big Book, Twelve Steps, and history. This because they have heard little or nothing of the man who had so much to do with A.A. beginnings.


Your Preview of Facts about Shoemaker and His Importance to A.A.


I have published a very substantial body of material on Sam Shoemaker and A.A. The following titles provide details and documentation: Dick B., The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous: A Design for Living that Works; Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A.; Bill Pittman and Dick B., Courage to Change; Dick B., Turning Point: A History of Early A.A.’s Spiritual Roots and Successes; and Dick B., Good Morning!: Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A. And I hope that those who want the facts will seek them in these published titles of mine. (www.dickb.com/titles.shtml).


I  leave to some later articles the many statements by Bill Wilson and others about Shoemaker’s importance. There are even a number of Shoemaker articles published in the A.A. Grapevine. And I will outline these, though I have detailed them in New Light on Alcoholism.


Right now, to add some zest to your interest in why Shoemaker’s status and role should be unearthed, I’ll quote the following from Bill Wilson’s writing:


[Having mentioned what he perceived to have been the importance of Dr. Silkworth to A.A.’s First Step, and of Professor William James to A.A.’s Twelfth Step, Bill said these things about Shoemaker and the remaining Steps:]


Having accounted for AA’s Steps One and Twelve, it is natural that we should next ask, “Where did the early AAs find the material for the remaining ten Steps? Where did we learn about moral inventory, amends for harms done, turning wills and lives over to God? Where did we learn about meditation and prayer and all the rest of it?”


The spiritual substance of our remaining ten Steps came straight from Dr. Bob’s and my own earlier association with the Oxford Groups, as they were then led in America by that Episcopal rector, Dr. Samuel Shoemaker. [The Language of the Heart: Bill W.’s Grapevine Writings (NY: The AA Grapevine, Inc.,1988), 298]


In fairness to both Dr. Bob and to “the rest of the story,” there is much more to be said about the Bible, about Dr. Bob’s statement that he had nothing to do with the writing of the Steps, and about Dr. Bob’s statement that the basic ideas came from their study and effort in the Bible. [See Dick B. and Ken B., The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2010).] But this series will be devoted to showing, line-by-line, the tremendous input that Sam Shoemaker had on Bill Wilson, the Big Book, the Twelve Steps, and the A.A. Fellowship.


A.A.’s leading “unofficial historian.” Author of 39 published titles on A.A. history.