A.A. Cofounder Dr. Bob: His Younger Years at a Glance
The A.A. Backdrop
The following quotes are taken from the A.A. General Service Conference-approved pamphlet titled The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches: Their Last Major Talks (New York: NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1972, 1975)—Pamphlet P-53:
Dr. Bob’s Unusual Christian Training as a Youngster in St. Johnsbury, Vermont
The following information about Dr. Bob's upbringing in St. Johnsbury—where he was born (apparently at home) on August 8, 1879, and resided until at least 1898 when he graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy—summarizes in very brief space information presented in Dick B. and Ken B., Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous: His Excellent Training in the Good Book as a Youngster in Vermont (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2008).
The “Great Awakening” of 1875 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont: The entire village was transformed as about one-third to one-quarter of the villagers were converted to Jesus Christ, the community was changed, and renewed church building was the theme. [See pp. xvi-xvii and 1-36.]
Dr. Bob’s Parents: Bob’s father Judge Walter Smith was a deacon, Sunday school superintendent, and Sunday school teacher in the family’s North Congregational Church. Bob’s mother Susan H. Smith was in charge of the Sunday school, a Sunday school teacher, and was—with her husband—a major pillar in the church. The focus of the Sunday school was on the importance of parents’ training their children about salvation and study of God’s Word. [See pp. 61-64 and 113-122.]
North Congregational Church of St. Johnsbury: Dr. Bob, his foster-sister, Amanda Carolyn Northrop, his parents, and his grandmother attended this church. They participated Sunday morning, Sunday school in the afternoon, Sunday evening Services, and Wednesday prayer meeting.[See pp. 64-68 and 123-141.]
The Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor (Y.P.S.C.E.): Dr. Bob was active in this church youth group which required confession of Christ, conversion meetings, Bible study meetings, prayer meetings, Quiet Hour, and adherence to the motto “love and service.” [See pp. 66-67 and 143-87.]
The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA): Judge Smith was president of the St. Johnsbury YMCA which conducted events in North Congregational Church and at St. Johnsbury Academy, as well as local Bible study groups. [See pp. 67-68 and 247-62.]
St. Johnsbury Academy: Dr. Bob’s father was an examiner there; his mother had attended the Academy and taught there, was active in alumni work, and became one of the school historians; and the school had strict Christian requirements—daily chapel, weekly church attendance, weekly Bible study, and the Bible in the curriculum.[See pp. 69-70 and 189-208.]
Dr. Bob’s Spiritual Renewal with the Bible Two-and-a-Half Years Before A.A. Began
When Dr. Bob began attending Oxford Group meetings in 1933, he began his Bible studies once again. His son, Robert R. Smith, personally told me (Dick B.) that his father had read the Bible from cover to cover three times during this period and added that “God’s Big Book” was the frame of reference in the Smith Home. In addition, Dr. Bob was reading Christian and other literature for about an hour each evening. His emphasis was on the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7), and 1 Corinthians 13.