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A Brief History Of Alcoholics Anonymous In South Carolina

   Our hope is that when this chip of a book is launched on the world tide of alcoholism, defeated drinkers will seize upon it, to follow its suggestions. Many, we are sure, will rise to their feet and march on. They will approach still other sick ones and fellowships of Alcoholics Anonymous may spring up in each city and hamlet, havens for those who must find a way out.

Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 153


   In the archives of the General Service Office in New York there is a letter dated November 13, 1942, from an attorney in Spartanburg named John L. Apparently, this is the earliest written inquiry to the office from someone in South Carolina. The group that later was established because of this inquiry marks the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous in our state. John L. wrote in part, “A group of us are interested in the book published about 1939 by your society and are interested in forming a local chapter.” Other correspondence in the New York archives indicates the group experienced difficulty getting started, but eventually did hold its first official meeting on September 15, 1944, at the Cleveland Hotel in Spartanburg. There were six members in attendance.

   In the summer of 1946, Marvin M. moved to Spartanburg from Atlanta, Georgia and discovered the group no longer existed. He resurrected the group and the members began calling it the Central Group. The group, however, again had problems meeting consistently and became inactive. In 1955, a new Central Group was started and began holding meetings regularly at 202 Pine Street and later at 109 Wall Street. In the early 1950s, several Central Group members in Spartanburg formed a nonprofit organization named Alconon Inc. The organization later obtained funding and was able to purchase property and construct a facility at 349 East St. John Street. Members attending meetings at the location started the second group in Spartanburg and named it the St. John Group. In the early 1970s, the Central Group and the St. John Group merged and became known as the Central-St. John Group.

   Information in the South Carolina General Service Committee Archives indicates Mary D., a woman in Columbia, wrote the then named Alcoholic Foundation in New York in late November 1944. Mary informed the office that she and two other members of Alcoholics Anonymous had started an A.A. group in the city. Her letter named the other two members as David H. and John C. The group was holding meetings in the private dining room of the Jefferson Hotel, where John C. was employed. The group later began referring to itself as the Columbia Group and moved their meeting location to 819 Harden Street in the mid-1940s. On January 31, 1947, an organization named A Corporation of Alcoholics (ACOA) was registered with the South Carolina Secretary of State’s office, as a nonprofit organization. Following the organization’s construction of a facility at 2015 College Street, the Columbia group began holding their meetings there in the fall of 1947. Other groups were started in Columbia and in the surrounding area during the late 1940s and early 1950s and members renamed the group the Central Group.

   General Service Office records show that William H. of Charleston, South Carolina began corresponding with the New York office as early as 1943. He stated in one of his letters that he had been sober for over ten years outside of A.A., but would be glad to help get Alcoholics Anonymous started in Charleston. As often occurred when starting new groups in A.A.’s early days, William H. experienced a great many problems. After several failed attempts, he was able to have the group hold its first official meeting on March 26, 1946, at St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church’s Parish House. The group later dissolved. In 1948 two other groups in Charleston, the Mid-Town Group and Tidewater Group, started meeting.

   Directories and other material in the South Carolina General Service Committee Archives reveal Alcoholics Anonymous grew rapidly in South Carolina during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Groups were started in cities across the state, including Greenville (1945), Anderson (1946), Bennettsville (1947), Laurens (1948), Greenwood (1948), Conway (1950), Greer (1951) and Lancaster (1952). The material also shows the first state convention in South Carolina was held in Charleston, July 16-18, 1948, at the Francis Marion Hotel. Approximately 100 A.A. members attended the convention. By the end of 1952, the membership of Alcoholics Anonymous in South Carolina had reached 917 with 44 groups registered with the New York office. John J., from Cheraw, became the first delegate elected from South Carolina. He attended the 1952 and 1953 General Service Conferences in New York.

   The growth of Alcoholics Anonymous in South Carolina continued throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In 1959, the membership increased to 1,015 and there were 64 official groups. In 1969, there were 1,294 active A.A. members attending meetings in 84 registered groups in South Carolina, which was officially designated as Area 62 by New York. In the mid 1960s, Area 62 divided itself into three regions known as the Upper Region, Central Region, and Lower Region. The state was further was divided into districts in the mid-1970s.

   Each group and district in the state elects representatives to the Area Assembly, which is responsible for conducting the state’s A.A. business. In June 2001, assembly members voted to amend the area’s structure and procedures and eliminated both the regions and regional nominating committee used in elections. Following this decision, all eligible Area 62 members have been invited to stand for area offices and elections have been conducted according to the Third Legacy Procedure described in the A.A. Service Manual.

   The first Intergroup office, named the Greater Columbia Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous, opened in Columbia in September 1979. Other Intergroup offices opened in the 1980s in Greenville, Charleston, and Myrtle Beach. These offices provided members easy access to meeting information and allowed for the quick purchase of literature. In the 1980s and 1990s, in addition to standard speaker and discussion type meetings, A.A. meeting schedules show that “Big Book” study meetings, “Twelve and Twelve” meetings, and meetings for young people, women, gays, and other specialized groups became commonplace across South Carolina. Meetings also began to be held in the mornings, at noon, in the afternoons and late at night. Moreover, nonsmoking meetings became the norm in most places. Today, groups can be found everywhere in South Carolina, from large metropolitan areas, which have scores of groups and hundreds of meetings, to small towns such as Denmark, Estill, Ridgeway, and Greeleyville, which have only one or two meetings a week.

   On March 20-23, 1997, the 50th Annual South Carolina State A.A. Convention was held at the Adams Mark Hotel in Columbia, South Carolina, with nearly 800 members in attendance. In April 1997, at the 47th General Service Conference in New York, Betty S. from Columbia was elected Southeast regional trustee. In October 1999, Darwin H., from Conway, South Carolina, was elected as delegate to the 50th General Service Conference.

   When Alcoholics Anonymous was first published in 1939, Bill W. expressed the hope that our Fellowship would one day reach everywhere and that it might provide a means of recovery for alcoholics who wanted to recover. As we enter a new millennium, data shows that we have grown in South Carolina from one group and six members in 1944 to over 300 groups and approximately 7,000 members in the year 2004. It is evident that Bill’s hope has been realized to a large extent in our state. May God continue to bless us.

Anonymous


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