Jellinek Memorial Awards

Mr. Bill W

Bill W.


In 1972 Bill W. Received the Jellinek Memorial Award


William Griffith Wilson, better known as “Bill W.”, was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.  At his death in 1971, there were more than 17,000 AA groups actively helping problem drinkers in 92 countries, world-wide the Fellowship numbered almost a million members.  Bill W. always stated that “anonymity was a ‘credo’ for all AA members, himself included.”


It was while struggling to make a financial comeback during the early depression years that Mr. Wilson began to embark on one disastrous drinking spree after another.  In the spring of 1934, after almost two years of continuous drinking, he wound up in Towns Hospital in New York City, a private institution for the treatment of alcoholism and narcotics addiction. He was sober for almost four months following his release from the hospital, but then irrationally he began the drinking bout that was to be his last.


It ended on December 11, 1934, when he was admitted to Towns Hospital again for the last time as a patient. There he was visited by a boyhood friend who had achieved sobriety by following a spiritual program advocated by the Oxford groups – the Buchmanite religious movement.  Later, pondering his friend’s recovery, Mr. Wilson experienced what he subsequently described as a “transforming experience” that seemed to free him from all craving for alcohol and that, following his release from the hospital, inspired him to work with other alcoholics.


Although none of the latter achieved sobriety as a result of his efforts during this period, Mr. Wilson noted that his own recurring desires to drink again seemed to disappear during these encounters.  Bill Wilson was an excellent writer.  In simple prose and effective reasoning, and in three and one-half decades of service to Alcoholics Anonymous, he formulated AA’s recovery program, codified into a set of traditions the first 10 years of its group experience, wrote four books for the movement (including “Alcoholics Anonymous,” which AA members called the “Big Book,” published in 1939) and contributed numerous articles about AA for internal and outside publications. A good public speaker, he often spoke before medical, psychiatric, and religious societies, and testified (in closed session) before various State and Federal legislative committee hearings on alcoholism.


Much of his AA life was devoted to building a strong structure for the Fellowship, helping first, in 1938, to establish a Board of Trustees, part of whose Members were non-alcoholic people. After he wrote the “Big Book” and it was published as a guide for both laypeople and members, he was concerned with setting up a publishing company and a general service office for the fledgling movement.    

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