|Richmond Walker Speaking in Rutland, Vermont in 1958|
The author of Twenty-Four Hours a Day tells the story of his own life.
Born Aug. 2, 1892; joined A. A. in May 1942; died Mar. 25, 1965
G.C. The old timers in Indiana say over and
over again that they got sober on two books: the Big Book and the Twenty-Four
Hour book. Phrases and topical advice from both books are sprinkled throughout
everything they say when they talk about their own experience of the program,
and when they give advice to newcomers. You can get even more out of the
Twenty-Four Hour book after you have read Rich's lead and begin to realize how
often he was speaking, particularly in the large print section at the top of
each page, about his own personal experiences, both during the years when he was
destroying his life through drink, and afterwards in recovery. He joined A.A. in
Boston, Massachusetts, in 1942 (only three years after the publication of the
Big Book), and taught the early A.A. groups how you carried out the spirit of
the eleventh step: "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our
conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of
His will for us and the power to carry that out."
Rich finished putting the Twenty-Four Hour book together in 1948, after he had moved down to Daytona Beach, Florida, and at first printed and distributed it on his own. In 1953, he asked the New York A.A. office to take over this task, which had become totally overwhelming (around 10,000 copies a year were being ordered at some points), but Bill W. said they could not do it either. In 1954, Patrick Butler at Hazelden offered to take over this mammoth job to keep the book available.
I was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, when my father and mother lived at 108 Upland Road (although I was not born in this house, but on Irving Street while the house was being built). My father was a lawyer by profession, although he did not practice law but went in for politics most of his active life.
My father's father, Grandfather Walker, lived in Worcester, Massachusetts, when he was first engaged in shoe manufacturing and later became United States congressman from Worcester. He served many years in the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C., and was known as the Grey Eagle of Lake Quinsigamond, which was the name of a lake near Worcester. My grandfather sold out his business to the United Shoe Manufacturing Company and used this money to build buildings in Worcester, Boston, and Chicago.
My father became manager of the Walker Building in Boston and also spent a lot of time in politics, starting as school committeeman in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was later sent to the Massachusetts state legislature in Boston as a representative from Brookline, and later served as speaker of the house in 1905, 1906, and 1907. He ran for governor on the Republican ticket and later on the Bull Moose ticket, but was defeated both times--he was well-liked by members of the legislature, but he would not have anything to do with political bosses. He was a thoroughly honest politician, serving from a sense of duty and not for financial reward. He was a friend of Republican President William Howard Taft and of President Theodore Roosevelt, as well as many other prominent men.
My mother was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of a cotton manufacturer, and met my father when he was attending Brown University. They were married in 1888, and came to live in Brookline, Massachusetts.
My older brother Joseph was the first born, and I was born a year and a half later on August 2, 1892. I always played second fiddle to my brother Joe, who was older, stronger, and better loved than I was. I was a lonesome kid who felt he was not loved enough or appreciated enough by my mother and father. They considered me a problem child, which I was. I showed very little affection for my family. My younger sister Dorothy was born, and died in infancy of diphtheria. Then my young brother George, and my two younger sisters Katharine and Evelyn.
My other brother Joe and I spent our early years in the summer on my Grandfather Walker's farm in New Hampton, New Hampshire. My brother Joe went to Volkman's School in Boston and later to Yale University, where he was graduated in 1913. I went to St. George's School in Newport, Rhode Island, and later to Williams College, where I was graduated in 1914. I finished my college work in three and a half years, and spent the last six months traveling abroad with Mason Garfield--we returned to Williamstown to receive our degrees on June 4, 1914. During the First World War, I served in the Medical Corps and later received a second lieutenant's commission in the Sanitary Corps as adjutant of Evacuation Hospital No. 54. I did not get overseas. My brother Joe served in the Marine Flying Corps. After the war I went into the wool business in Boston with my brother Joe, founding our own business, Walker Top Company, where I worked for thirty years.
When I was thirty years old, on May 8, 1922, I was married to Agnes Nelson of Boston, Massachusetts. We had four children: Hilda (who died), Caroline, John, and David. We lived in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, where we had a very nice house built for us by my brother Joe. In 1932 during the depression, we sold this home and moved to Cohasset, Massachusetts, where we bought a house on the water. Here the children were brought up, but I was drinking too much at the time.
After leaving college, and during the war and prohibition, I began to drink quite heavily. My disposition, perhaps due to a rather loveless youth, disposed me to become an alcoholic, but I drank for a long time during which my alcoholism remained dormant. After my marriage, and during the growing up of my children, I drank more than I should have. I consequently missed the companionship I should have had with my wife and children. After about nineteen years of marriage, at the age of [forty]-nine, I became separated from my wife and children. My alcoholism had become evident, and my wife rightly refused to put up with it any longer. (In 1939, I had joined the Oxford Group, and stopped drinking for two and a half years, but after two and a half years I began drinking again. This lasted for a year and a half, and during this time I landed in several hospitals, culminating with [the] separation from my wife and children.)
In 1942 when I was fifty years old--and after thirty years of drinking--I finally joined Alcoholics Anonymous. I had been separated from my wife for about nine months, but upon my joining A.A., she decided to take me back. I have not had a drink of any kind of intoxicating beverage [since that time]. I have enjoyed a happy married life and the companionship of my children. Joining Alcoholics Anonymous was the best thing I had done in my life since I started drinking at the age of twenty.
The twenty years before I started drinking were good on the whole, except in my early childhood when I was a problem to my parents. But from the time I went away from home to school at St. George's in Newport, Rhode Island--and to college at Williams College--my life could have been considered quite successful. I was captain of the football team at St. George's; also played on the baseball and basketball teams; I was an honor student (next to highest in my class) and won a gold medal for the study of Greek. At Williams, I was also quite successful: I played four years on the football team, was president of my sophomore class, and also president of my graduated class; I was also president of my fraternity Alpha Delta Phi and was well regarded by my classmates. I was serious, and did some work for [the] YMCA at Williams; I thought that those who drank a lot were very foolish. I went through college in three and a half years, and received a magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa key. So my school and college life could be considered as quite successful.
Although well-respected, I did not make class friends. I was wrapped in a cloak of reserve; there was a wall between myself and other people. I did not go halfway to make friends, and there was no love in my life. In fact, true love has always been a mystery to me. As a child I was not loved, and as a result I have never learned to truly love others. I was poorly adjusted to life, being self-contained, egocentric, immature, easily hurt, and overly sensitive.
After I was graduated from college I got in with a drinking crowd, and from the first I found that drinking loosened me up and allowed me to enjoy the company of others--especially drinkers like myself. Soon alcohol became a crutch to me, which enable me to enjoy life: the companionship of girls, parties, football games, and all of my activities.
After the war, I went into the wool business with my brother Joe in Boston. We had a house on Beacon Hill, with a Japanese servant, and we did a lot of entertaining. Although I went to the office every day, I never was much of a businessman--it did not really interest me. But I enjoyed drinking parties and gay times.
After ten years of this gay drinking life, I got married at the age of thirty. Agnes Nelson and I had been on parties together and we were good companions. We eloped and were married at the Little Church Around the Corner in New York. We went to Winnepesaukee in New Hampshire on our honeymoon, then took an apartment in Brookline, Massachusetts. It was not before our first child Hilda was born that our marriage was finally announced to my family. It was part of my nature to be secretive about most things, and this applied to my marriage. After it was announced however, we were well-received by my family.
My brother Joe, at the time, was building houses in addition to his wool business, and he built us a fine house in Chestnut Hill, Brookline. Here our first three children were brought up in their early youth. We became friends with a family who lived nearby, and together we went on several trips to the West Indies, Havana, and Canal Zone. I was drinking a lot on these journeys, and my alcoholism was becoming more evident as time passed. After we had been married for two years, I bought a summer cottage in Siasconset on Nantucket Island, where we spent our summers. Our friends there were a heavy drinking crowd, and my alcoholism developed rapidly.
In 1932, during the depression, we sold our home in Chestnut Hill and moved to Cohasset, twenty-five miles south of Boston, where we bought a smaller house on the harbor. Here our youngest child David was born, and the older children (Hilda, Carol, and John) were brought up. I continued to take the train to Boston and go to the office, but my heart was not in it.
Hilda died at the age of twelve from spinal meningitis, which she contracted at a summer camp on Cape Cod. My drinking increased measurably: I was arrested three times for drunken driving and landed in several hospitals. I was lying in a hospital when my wife sent a lawyer to tell me she did not want me around any longer. In this she was certainly justified--I was of no use as a husband or father to my children. After leaving the hospital, I went to Nantucket and stayed quite drunk most of the summer. In the fall, I got a room on Beacon Street in Boston where I lived alone. I still went to the office but I was not much use as a businessman. My brother Joe was very broad-minded to put up with me, because I spent much of my time away from the office. (After Hilda's death I had resigned as a partner in the firm; Agnes and I took a trip to Sweden, and upon our return I went back to the office, not as a partner, but as a clerk working on statistics.)
Before my separation from my wife and family, I spent a great deal of my time drinking, except for the two and a half years that I was a member of the Oxford Group (1939, 1941), during which time I did not drink or smoke. It was after I had begun drinking again that I was separated from my wife and family.
While I was drinking alone in the room on Beacon Street in Boston, I became disgusted with my life and suddenly decided I would do something about it. I talked with some members of the Oxford Group, and the next morning, in my lonely room, I prayed to God to show me how to live a better life. I went to Jim's home in Newtonville for two weeks until I had sobered up. (I had heard about Alcoholics Anonymous a year before this, but I had done nothing about it.) I met my wife at my father's funeral, and she took me back on the basis that I would never drink again--I fully believed I never would--but I had a slip, and after one week of drinking, I walked into the A.A. clubroom at 306 Newberry Street in Boston.
At this time I was fifty years old and had been drinking for thirty years. It was in May of 1942, and I have never had a drink of any kind of alcoholic beverage since that time. Since then my life has improved greatly. I get along better with people; I am accepted by my wife and children as a husband and father. I have learned how to live contentedly without liquor, which I no longer need, as the A.A. program has showed me a much better way of living.
I have learned how to go halfway to make a friend, and I enjoy the companionship of other people: other members of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have accepted the fact that I am an alcoholic and can never drink any kind of alcoholic beverage ever again as long as I live. I have recovered my faith in a power greater than myself, which I call God, who can give me the strength I need to face life, and all its ups and downs, without resorting to liquor. I have acquired more insight into my defects of character, and am trying to eliminate the blocks that keep me from a good life, such as fear, worry, resentment, jealousy, impatience, and selfishness. I have begun to understand a little of what love is, especially love for my fellow man, but I still have a long way to go in this respect. I have tried to make amends for the wrongs I have done to people in the past due to my drinking, and I carry no load of guilt for the past.
I am trying to forget the past and not worry about the future, which is in the hands of God. I realize that now--this present moment--is all that I have, and I am trying to live one day at a time, doing the best I can for this twenty-four hours only.
I am also trying to be of service to my fellow man: I have talked with hundreds of alcoholics and have tried to carry the message of the A.A. program. It has been good for me, and has helped me in this way of life. Whether or not I have helped others is in the hands of God--if so, I do not want any credit for the work I do with other alcoholics.
In 1948, I compiled a little book of daily reading for members of Alcoholics Anonymous called Twenty-Four Hours a Day, which has sold so far over 80,000 copies. I have also written and distributed two other pamphlets: For Drunks Only and The Seven Points of A.A., which have had a wide circulation among A.A. members.
I attend two or three A.A. meetings every week (except when I am traveling) and I find that I can never learn enough about the A.A. way of life. I have spoken at hundreds of A.A. meetings, telling my story of what alcohol did to me, and how I found a happy way to live without it. Each meeting I attend, each talk I make, each time I try to help another human being, I am strengthened in this A.A. way of life.
Above all, my faith in the Great Intelligence behind the universe, which can give me all the strength I need to face whatever life has to offer, is the foundation of my present life. When I die, my body will return to dust. Heaven is not any particular place in the sky, but my intelligence or soul, if it is in the proper condition, will return to the Great Intelligence behind the universe and will blend with that Great Intelligence and be at home again whence it came. My problem, in what is left of my life, is to keep my mind or intelligence in the proper condition--by living with honesty, purity, unselfishness, love, and service--so that when my time comes to go, my passing to a greater sphere of mind will be gentle and easy.
G.C. Richmond Walker is still the second most popular A.A. author in total sales, exceeded only by Bill Wilson. The teaching of Rich's Twenty-Four Hours a Day book was based on the experiences of the A.A. old-timers in the Boston area during the 1940's, together with the spirituality of the Oxford Group, particularly as represented in God Calling by Two Listeners. This latter book was a set of meditations, edited and published by the famous Oxford Group author A. J. Russell, which had been written by two women under the inspiration of the idea of divine guidance which Russell had talked about in For Sinners Only. In the fine print section at the bottom of each page of his own book, Rich adapted these Oxford Group ideas for alcoholics and added many helpful suggestions of his own for the struggling alcoholic who was still trying to understand what a meaningful higher power could possibly be.
*NOTE: Foreword by Mel B. (Toledo, Ohio) to 40th Anniv. Edit. of Twenty-Four Hours a Day© (1994) gives date and location for this lead.
Distributed as a handout at the Sixth National Archives Workshop at Louisville KY, Sept. 27-30, 2001.
Text taken from the Northern Indiana Archival Bulletin© Vol. 4.1 (2001): 1-4, published in South Bend, Indiana under the auspices of the Area 22 Archives Committee (Northern Indiana).
Return to Letters, Brochures, etc Page
Return to the A. A. History Page
Return to the West Baltimore Home Group Page