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District 1 History

History of Alcoholics Anonymous in Pinellas County

DeSoto Hotel In TampaThere are so many exciting experiences of Pinellas County Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) history. The initial history goes back. Way back. This is how it all began. Alfred Meakin arrived in St. Pete from Baltimore in 1945. He wrote a letter dated February 6, 1945 to the Alcoholic Foundation seeking some local contacts. Back then, this is how books were obtained and meetings formed – snail mail!  He wanting to continue his AA way of life and wrote to the New York office and asked “are there any groups, or any AA members in this area?”. In response to his letter, the New York office told him of a new group in Tampa, meeting at the old De Soto Hotel. 


They also told him of a man in St. Pete who had just purchased an AA Big Book. It was a hand-written letter to the Alcoholic Foundation from a Jack D. Holley, ordering a big Book COD and it is dated February 13, 1945. Alfred contacted the group in Tampa where he learned Ernie King, and  “The Sarge”, Roy Yeargan, had started the Tampa group. He called on another man who had purchased a book, Bob W. After talking to Bob and going to the Tampa meetings together, they decided to form their own meeting in St. Petersburg in late summer 1945.

The first Pinellas County AA meeting was held in Bob’s office at the Florida Power building. This was after a few small talks among these men. In the meantime, they heard about an active alcoholic in the St. Pete Stockade (jail). Bob talked to him and told him how the program worked for him. His name was Bennie W. and he decided he would like to try the program. Bob and Alfred talked to the jailor and asked them if they could take him and another man out to a meeting, and return him afterwards. This first meeting consisted of eight men: Two from the Tampa group, Ernie K. and Roy (“The Sarge”), Walter O. (“snow bird from NJ”), & Ferrell C. of Akron, along with four from St. Pete: Bob W., Alfred M., and their two boys from the jail, Bennie W. and Jack H.
During the winter months, they had as many as forty people counting the “snow birds” attending meetings. A wonderful closeness remained between the three area groups — Tampa, Clearwater (a group formed in Clearwater), & St. Pete. They held a meeting once a month from the 3 communities, which was fondly referred to as “The Golden Triangle” meeting. Once a month they would exchange meeting places and Chairmen.  Late in 1946, they had to move because of remodeling and found a room at the YMCA, but continued to look for a larger and more convenient place. They finally located a place at 28 Beach Drive N.E., which belonged to a rest home across the street. This location consisted of the entire first floor and a large screened porch, which was a perfect environment for a large group meeting. The group really thrived and grew in this location and became large enough to have two meetings a week. It wasn’t long before they outgrew their Beach Drive home, and found a perfect meeting hall at Saint Mary’s. Growth was tremendous, so they started splitting into smaller groups and moved to different parts of the city.  By 1951, AA was well established in Pinellas County. In addition to the St. Pete, Sunshine and Central Groups, there was a group that had first met in a home and then moved to Pasadena, and a small group at Pass-A-Grille, which eventually became the Holiday Isles Group.
Here is a video of the AA Book History:
Here is the historic video of Bill W’s last drunk:
This is your archives committee (16 slides):
AA Begins!:
Bill Wilson

– Bill Wilson and Ebby Thatcher

Over the years, as the number of groups multiplied, attempts were made to establish an active Intergroup Office, which could be of service to all of Pinellas County. This was finally accomplished in December, 1962. For more info click here: https://aapinellas.org/history/