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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: The man who sponsored Bill Wilson
Author: Fraser Trevor
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He’ll always be remembered as “the man who sponsored Bill Wilson.” But just as Wilson’s story gives hope for recovery to millions of alcoho...
He’ll always be remembered as “the man who sponsored Bill Wilson.” But just as Wilson’s story gives hope for recovery to millions of alcoholics and addicts, Ebby Thatcher’s story warns of the cunning, baffling, and powerful nature of the illness that often leads to relapse.

Edwin Throckmorton Thatcher was born in Albany, New York on April 29, 1896. Three members of his prominent family had served as mayor of that city and his brother came very close to being elected Governor of the state of New York. Ebby first met Wilson in Manchester, Vermont where he always spent the summer with his family. He attended Albany Academy (AA?) but dropped out of school before graduation. He took his first drink at age 19 and had problems with alcohol right from the beginning.

One famous drinking story that included Bill Wilson occurred in 1929 when Ebby and Wilson got drunk in Albany and talked a pilot friend into having a few drinks and then flying with them to a new airport set to open in Manchester. Half the town turned out to meet the inaugural flight and welcome them, only to see Bill and Ebby fall flat on their faces when they stumbled out of the plane! Another occurred several years later when Ebby was living at the family’s summer home. He was trying to paint the house when some friends who had joined the Oxford Group paid him an unexpected visit. Initially, he wasn’t too interested in their attempts to bring God into his life and take alcohol out. But shortly thereafter, he found himself in trouble with the law for shooting at several pigeons intent on adding a few unwanted touches to his fresh paint job. Told by the judge to stay sober over the weekend before returning to court for sentencing, Ebby was going to his basement to get some beer as one voice in his head was leading him to drink and another Voice called him away from it. Ebby listened to the other Voice and gave all his beer away to a neighbor. When he did appear back in front of the judge sober, three Oxford Group members came and asked that he be turned over to the custody of Roland Hazard who was sober nearly three years at that time. In Roland’s care, Ebby began to learn the Oxford Group practices of surrender, restitution, service and listening daily for God’s guidance.

Two months later that guidance led him to make his providential telephone call to Bill Wilson to see if he was still having problems with alcohol and if, perhaps, he could be of help. While Wilson soon found sobriety through the Oxford Group that lasted a lifetime, Ebby’s lasted only two years. He began to suffer frequent, periodic relapses, a pattern that plagued him for most of his life. Wilson was forever grateful for the messenger who brought him into recovery and he never gave up hope that Ebby would someday regain sobriety. Bill and several AA friends helped Ebby throughout the years often finding him jobs and giving him places to live - only to see his former sponsor relapse again and again. Ebby always believed the right woman and the right job would keep him sober but he never seemed to find them. He rarely attended meetings and was hospitalized several times before Wilson thought a geographic cure might help his old friend.

In 1953 the legendary AA old-timer Searcy W. from Dallas brought Ebby down to Texas where he received treatment at the clinic he then operated. This began for Ebby a period of sobriety that continued uninterrupted for nearly eight years. He spoke at AA meetings around the state and held down several jobs. But Ebby also held on to resentments for the man he sponsored, believing that Bill and Dr. Bob never fully recognized the contribution he made to the founding of AA. We all know where resentments usually lead.

Ebby also had a troubled relationship with a woman named Chloe who many of his friends thought to be more interested in what she could get from him than what she might give. Chloe died suddenly in 1961 and Ebby got drunk the very next day. Continually drunk and depressed his Texas friends had done all they could do for Ebby, so he returned to New York and knocked once again on Bill Wilson’s door. This time he had little hope to share with his old friend.

Wilson took Ebby in again as he had many times and eventually found a place for his sponsor at McPike’s Farm, a small treatment center not far from Albany, New York. There Ebby stayed for two years supported by Social Security and a $200 monthly check from AA that Wilson had convinced the trustees to fund for him. His health slowly deteriorated and finally death came on March 21, 1966. Ebby was sober two and a half years when he died. We’re always carrying a message if not always the message. If it’s been a while since you went to a meeting, Ebby’s story might still be one God sent him to tell you!
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