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Marion native co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous
By Tara Templeman, - The History Center
Jul. 26, 2022 6:00 am
Marion is the birthplace of the man responsible for getting "The Big Book" published, the book that details the recovery process used by Alcoholics Anonymous.
Henry G. “Hank” Parkhurst was born in Marion on March 13, 1895. After losing his job as a Standard Oil executive due to his drinking, he sought treatment at Charles B. Towns Hospital in Manhattan in 1935.
It was there that Parkhurst met Bill Wilson and became the second person to recover from an alcohol addiction using the newly minted Alcoholics Anonymous steps in New York.
As a businessman, Parkhurst convinced Wilson to start the Works Publishing Co. in 1938. The trustees of the Alcoholic Foundation opposed the plan since Parkhurst had no experience in publishing, but the plan moved forward.
Parkhurst and Wilson sold shares in the company to others in recovery to finance the printing and distribution of the book, which told the story of how the first 100 people got sober through the Alcoholics Anonymous program.
Cornwall Press in New York published the book April 1, 1939. To date, 37 million copies of the book have been sold. It has been translated into 43 languages, and the Library of Congress in 2012 picked it as one of the 88 “Books that Shaped America.”
Parkhurst took issue with the AA’s reliance on God as a part of its program, and together with Jim Burwell pushed for the inclusion of the language “... as we understood Him” to follow mentions of God.
Despite this point of contention, Parkhurst was able to work the program and stay sober for four years. But his relationship with Alcoholics Anonymous deteriorated over time, and he was all but removed from the organization’s history.
Parkhurst’s involvement in shaping Alcoholics Anonymous was brought to light by author Bill Schaberg, who refers to Parkhurst as AA’s “co-founder who drank” in his 2019 book, “Writing the Big Book: The Creation of A.A.”
Tara Templeman is curator at The History Center. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org