The story behind the Jack Alexander article on A.A.
On March 1, 1941, The Saturday Evening Post published an article titled “Alcoholics Anonymous: Freed Slaves of Drink, Now They Free Others” written by Jack Alexander. The article became a major turning point in Alcoholics Anonymous’ history.
The story behind the article begins when the owner of The Saturday Evening Post, Judge Curtis Bok, learned of A.A. from two friends. He was interested in having the Post tell the story of the organization and called upon well-known journalist of The Saturday Evening Post, Jack Alexander, to do so.
Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, eager to publicize the A.A. message, met with Alexander. He gave Alexander access to records, a tour of significant A.A. sights, and set up interviews with both nonalcoholic trustees of the General Service Board and A.A.s.
Correspondence between Jack Alexander and Bill W. from early 1941 shows the excitement felt in anticipation of the article’s release. On January 4, 1941, Alexander wrote to Bill W. and enclosed a manuscript of the article for Bill to read. On January 6 Bill replied and from his response the eagerness for the article’s release is apparent. Bill wrote:
For many a day you will be the toast of A.A.- in coca cola, of course!
The offices of The Saturday Evening Post also received a large number of inquiries. A March 26, 1941, bulletin by the Post relays the power behind the article.
Eight years after the release of the wildly successful 1941 Saturday Evening Post article Bill W. wrote to Jack Alexander with a request. Bill W. was interested in a follow-up article and was hoping Alexander would write one, and on June 8, 1949, Bill W. wrote the following:
On June 9, Jack Alexander replied that he had always thought about writing a follow-up but had never gotten around to it. He also writes that there is trouble with the idea and says:
There is basic trouble about it, though; I don’t see, offhand, where there is enough new material to justify a second look. True, the number of AA’s has ballooned enormously, but that in itself is merely statistical. The basic story—the psychology of drinkers, how the AA’s work on them, the steps towards arresting the habit—remains unchanged; or so it seems to me.
On December 13, 1949 Bill W. wrote to Jack Alexander outlining the major turning points in the AA movement which included the decision to leave the Oxford Group, about Rockefeller insisting they did not need money, the formation of the Alcoholic Foundation, and the first two chapters of the Big Book.
For the next few months Bill W. and Jack Alexander corresponded regarding corrections that either of them thought needed to be made to the article. Finally, eight months after Bill W. initially presented Jack Alexander with the proposed idea for a follow-up, the article was released. “The Drunkard’s Best Friend” was published in the April 1, 1950 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.
“The Drunkard’s Best Friend” was a success, just as its predecessor was. On April 22, 1950, Bill W. wrote to Ben Bibbs, editor of The Saturday Evening Post, in praise of Jack Alexander and the two articles. Bill wrote as follows:
When Jack Alexander passed away in 1975 he was credited in his West Texas Register obituary as the newspaperman who made “Alcoholics Anonymous a major organization by the articles he wrote about its work.” Today, the General Service Office Archives still receives inquiries requesting both articles.
Note: [A.A. World Services publishes the 1941 article in pamphlet format and sells approximately 22,000 a year.]