The Unbeliever — Henry (Hank) Parkhurst, New Jersey.
(OM and 1st edition, p. 194.)Biographies written by Nancy O., Moderator, AA History Buffs.
Hank was the first man Bill Wilson was successful in sobering up after
returning from his famous trip to Akron where he met Dr. Bob. Thus Hank was
A.A. #2 in New York prior to resuming drinking about four years later. His
original date of sobriety was either October or November 1935.
Hank was a salesman, an agnostic, and a former Standard Oil of New Jersey
executive, who had lost his job because of drinking. He wound up at Towns
Hospital, where Bill found him in the fall of 1935. The first mention of
Hank in the Big Book is on page xxix of The Doctor’s Opinion. He is believed
to be the man Dr. Silkworth described who seemed to be a case of pathological
mental deterioration. (Hank later became very paranoid and Dr. Silkworth
warned Bill he might become dangerous.)
When Bill and Lois lost their home on Clinton Street, Brooklyn, it was to the
Parkhurst home in New Jersey that they moved for a short time.
He and Jim Burwell (The Vicious Cycle), lead the fight against too much
talk of God in the 12 steps, which resulted in the compromise God as we
Hank had a small business, Honor Dealers, in Newark, NJ. It is the little
company mentioned on page 149. According to one source, he had conceived it
as a way of getting back at Standard Oil, which had fired him. Bill Wilson
and Jim Burwell worked there for a time and Bill dictated most of the Big
Book to Ruth Hock in this office.
Ruth Hock said the Big Book would not have been written without Bill, and it
would not have been published without Hank. And Hank wrote, except for the
opening paragraph, the chapter To Employers.
But Hank became very hostile toward Bill. Problems developed between them
over the way Hank was setting up Works Publishing Co., as a for profit
corporation, with himself as President. As a result of the feedback from
group members, Bill listed himself as the sole author of the Big Book as a
means of counter-balancing this.
There were other problems over money, and over Ruth Hock. Hank wanted to
divorce his wife, Kathleen, and marry Ruth, and when Ruth decided to go with
Bill when he moved the A.A. office out of Honor Dealers, Hank was furious.
Bill paid him $200 for the office furniture (which he claimed he still owned,
but which had been purchased from him earlier), in exchange for Hank turning
over his stock in Works Publishing, as all the others had done. Hank then
went to Cleveland to try to start problems for Bill there.
No one knows exactly when Hank had started drinking again, but in the diary
Lois Wilson kept there are various September 1939 entries that mention that
Hank was drunk. He did get back on the program for a short time at some
later date but it didn’t last.
Nevertheless, A.A. owes Hank a debt of gratitude for his many contributions
during his all too short period of sobriety.
He died after a long illness at Glenwood Sanitarium in Trenton, New Jersey,
on January 18, 1954, at the age of fifty-seven. Lois Wilson ascribed his
death to drinking. Funeral services were held Thursday, January 22 at
Blackwell Memorial Home. Rev. A. Kenneth Magner of the First Presbyterian
Church performed the service.
At the time of his death he and his wife, Kathleen Nixon Parkhurst (whom he
had remarried after two failed marriages) were living at Washington-Crossing
Road, Pennington, New Jersey. One son, Henry G. Parkhurst, Jr., was living
in Madeira Beach, Florida. A second son Robert S. Parkhurst, was living in