2936 St. Paul Street

HISTORY OF JAMES H. RIDGELY FOUNDER OF AA IN BALTIMORE

James Hodges Ridgely was born in Baltimore on March 13, 1887 the first son and third of eight children to Mary Hodges Ridgely and Joseph Graham Ridgely. Difficulties in childbirth resulted in the loss of his first wife and son. His second marriage produced two sons. His continuing binge drinking resulted in his referral on June 7, 1933 to The Keswick Colony of Mercy, a religious recovery mission in New Jersey where he remained for more than ten months. He never drank again giving him a sobriety date that came before that of Bill Wilson.

When Jim returned to Baltimore on April 16, 1934, his past conduct led his wife to require him to demonstrate a full year of sobriety in Baltimore before living with the family. After staying sober in his brother's home for a year he returned to his family at 2936 St. Paul Street. During this time he began working with other drunks.

On June 16, 1940, James H. Ridgely, his old friend and former Baltimorean James Burwell, one of the earliest AA members to stay sober in New York ["The Vicious Cycle"] and three other men at his home on 2936 St. Paul Street, to conduct the first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in Baltimore. For three months thereafter regular Friday meetings were held in the 11th floor Board Room of the Munsey Building on Fayette Street after which meetings were held in the basement of the Altamont Hotel on Eutaw street. In March of 1941 the group rented the second floor of 857 Eutaw Street as a club meeting hall. The 857 Club now located in East Baltimore continues today as the oldest continuing meeting in Baltimore.

On November 9, 1944, four months before his 571h birthday James Ridgely died sober from a heart attack after a game of handball a the YMCA. Funeral services were conducted at his home November 11th by Rev. Richard Loring, Rector of St. David's Episcopal Church. He was laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery.

This retreat was established to provide men in recovery an opportunity for growth and renewal in fulfillment of our obligation to "pass it on" to the still suffering alcoholic in honor of the memory of James Ridgely, a man whose pioneering efforts to carry the message led the establishment of over 1,000 weekly meetings of Alcoholic Anonymous in our community today.

We wish to thank Joe H. for his work above...

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