Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online

For Participating Institutions

Tom Powers collection of Bill Wilson public talks (Ms.2010.002)

Brown University Library

Box A
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: Manuscripts: 401-863-3723; University Archives: 401-863-2148
Email: Manuscripts: hay@brown.edu; University Archives: archives@brown.edu

Biographical note

Bill Wilson ("Bill W.") (1895-1971) was an intellectually gifted and severely alcoholic man whose career prospects had been all but ruined by his drinking. Through a friend he discovered the teachings of the Oxford Group, whose conservative Christian principles stressed personal accountability and surrender to God. After he and Dr. Bob Smith, also an alcoholic Oxford Group member, had successfully guided others to sobriety using these tenets they published their Twelve Step recovery plan in a book titled Alcoholics Anonymous: the story of how many thousands of men and women have recovered from alcoholism (New York, Works Pub., 1938). An organization of the same name was formed which now counts millions of active members worldwide.

Bill Wilson married Lois Burnham in 1918. Lois eventually began Al-Anon Family Groups, which include Al-Anon and Alateen, to address the issues faced by those living with alcoholics. Bill and Lois bought the Stepping Stones estate in Katonah, New York, in 1941 and lived there until their deaths in 1971 and 1988, respectively.

Tom Powers (1911-2005) attended his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in White Plains, New York, in October, 1941. After several unsuccessful hospitalizations Powers remained a hardened alcoholic and drug addict, and his initial success in AA was seriously compromised by his atheism. Despite attending AA meetings he soon began to drink again, and again he ended up in the hospital. There he began the serious reconsideration of AA's Twelve Step Program and his own belief in God that grew into his book Invitation to a Great Experiment (Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, 1979). With Bill Wilson as his sponsor Powers became sober in October 1946, eventually assisting in the editing of the Big Book, second edition. Powers always considered Bill Wilson to be his sponsor but he later disassociated from Wilson over allegations about Wilson's marital infidelity.

Tom Powers is credited with applying the Twelve Step Program to the treatment of other addictions such as drugs, eating and sex. After his break with Bill Wilson he moved to Hankins, New York, in 1961 where he established the East Ridge clinic whose principles of recovery would eventually become All Addicts Anonymous (AAA).


Tom Powers. "The Program Is a Life Jacket" from StepStudy.org http://stepstudy.org/2009/06/21/the-program-is-a-life-jacket-by-tom-powers/

Tom P.'s Recovery Story at AllAddictsAnonymous.org http://alladdictsanonymous.org/recoverystory_tom.htm