How It Worked -THE STORY OF CLARENCE H. SNYDER
AND THE EARLY DAYS OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS IN CLEVELAND, OHIO
By Mitchell K. © 1991, 1997
A PROPHET IN HIS OWN TOWN
Clarence's Life After the 1960's
A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country (Matthew 13:57)
After Clarence left Ohio to move to Florida, he continued to be active in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. He also continued on with "earning a living."
Clarence worked at several different positions, including many sales jobs, something to which he seemed best suited. He settled down with his wife, Selma (Kitterer), in St. Petersburg and found a home group.
Clarence seemed to be the type of person you either loved or hated. There appeared to be no real middle ground. As the author saw it, Clarence was at times egotistical, and yet humble in his own way. He continued with the hard-line A.A. his sponsor had taught him. Dr. Bob did not believe in half measures. Neither did Clarence.
In his later years, Clarence traveled around the country, speaking and carrying the message of a changed life to those who wanted to hear it. Local meetings had a difficult time with Clarence. For the most part they didn't seem to want to hear his particular brand of A.A. The saying that a prophet in his own town is without honor fit Clarence well.
There were those too, with whom Clarence found favor. These were usually people who found Clarence's interpretation of what A.A. should be like to be in their best interest. These, at first, were few. Their numbers grew.
Clarence became involved with the Masons in Florida. Like Dr. Bob, Clarence was a 32° Mason. He became involved in speaking at civic and other organizations about A.A.
He became involved in church affairs; and he believed he tried to practice and live the principles of the A.A. program as best he could. He continued to sponsor numerous people, and there are many today in St. Petersburg who were sponsored by Clarence. Most still enjoy continuous sobriety.
Clarence and Selma were eventually divorced. The author found that Clarence was reluctant to speak about any of his marriages. So details remain something of a mystery. After the divorce, Clarence continued on with his A.A. work as an avocation. He never required any one to pay for his speaking engagements. However, he did not turn down any "honorariums" offered that were paid; and he did request that those who invited him to speak outside of Florida pay for his travel, meals, and lodging.
He spoke throughout the United States, Canada and a few foreign countries. He constantly got into trouble with his statements concerning the founding of A.A. and his claim that he was the one who had founded the first A.A. meeting. Whatever the accuracy of his claim as a founder, there is ample evidence that the meeting he started in Cleveland, at 2345 Stillman Road, Cleveland Heights, was the first meeting to be called Alcoholics Anonymous. As we stated, Nell Wing (Bill's secretary) acknowledged to the author that Clarence was the first person to use the initials "A.A." in referring to Alcoholics Anonymous.
There were many firsts in A.A. which could be directly attributed to Clarence Snyder. But his method of making them known became a sore point with many. Clarence did not believe in the Tradition of Anonymity. He felt he came into A.A. before there were any traditions and that for the most part they didn't apply to him. He used his first and last name everywhere he went. He granted television, radio and newspaper interviews. He allowed his face to be photographed in connection with A.A. - a violation of Tradition Eleven.
When Bill Wilson died in 1971, Clarence offered his services to the New York office to help in any way he could. But that office politely declined the offer. Clarence said, looking back on that refusal, that he probably expected it.
Also in 1971, Clarence was introduced to Grace Snipes Moore. Grace was an alcoholic who was attending meetings. Clarence said he was introduced to Grace as the oldest living member of A.A., "the oldest man in the world."
The two began seeing each other and were married that same year. Grace and Clarence moved to Casselberry, Florida, where they purchased a house at 142 Lake Triplett Drive South. They established their home there and began traveling around the country together speaking.
Grace was openly theistic, and Clarence began to express similar ideas. Though Clarence had always believed in God and did not shrink from expressing his belief, he began more open confession of his religious beliefs. He became more involved in church matters and spoke more openly about Jesus at meetings and at retreats.
As an elder statesman in A.A., and as the member with the longest period of continuous sobriety of any person living at that time, Clarence was respected by many. People flocked to his home to be "taken through their steps" by Clarence. They came from all over the country. There were people who had many years of abstinence, but who wanted sobriety. They learned that sobriety had little to do with not drinking but had a lot to do with living. Clarence liked to use the term "sodriety" when referring to the state by these people before they underwent a life change.
There were Roman Catholic priests, business executives, housewives, and many other folks. All these who sought out Clarence, were unhappy with the way their lives were going and were seeking something more. With Clarence, they read the Big Book and found that its principles were lacking in what they had heard at meetings. There was a type of recovery, they found, that was exemplified in the Big Book but was not present in the rooms of A.A.
Clarence was awarded the prestigious Jefferson Award, both on the local level and the National level. This was for service to humanity. It was granted for A.A. work from 1937 forward. Clarence was also given many other honors for his A.A. work.
Though these awards brought great honor to Clarence, he did not feel as if they were nearly as much an honor as that was awarded him when he brought someone through the steps and led someone to a changed life in service to God. Clarence felt he was an instrument whom God used for God's glory and honor.
Clarence held retreats in Florida twice a year, carrying the message of recovery and leading people to his Lord, Jesus Christ. He made commitments for similar retreats in Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey and other places. He went wherever he was asked.
At these retreats the A.A. message was stressed. The Christian message and Prayer and Praise sessions began after the official ending of the retreat as not to confuse the two, so that those in attendance would not be mistaken as to the A.A. part and the religious part.
In those later Florida years, Clarence's life was filled with joy and contentment. He was married to a woman who loved him and was sharing his life and helping in carrying the message. He was respected by many, but disliked probably by just as many. However, Clarence always believed that, in order to do God's will, there would be those who would scorn him and try to cause derision. "If God is for me, who can be against me," Clarence often said, quoting Romans 8:31, in the Bible.
Clarence's life appeared to be the fulfillment of the promises in the Big Book and his serenity was evident wherever he went. Clarence had a message to carry to those who wanted to hear it. He had a commitment to his sponsor to "fix rummies" as an avocation. He honored this commitment and carried the message until the day he died.