The Whitehouse Group of Alcoholics Anonymous has a rich history embedded in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous in Dallas, Texas. Although the Group did not form until 1985, its founders were among the first members of AA in Dallas. Esther E., originally from New Orleans, held the first AA meetings in Dallas. Her story, A Flower of the South, appeared in the Third Edition of the Big Book (pages 384 - 395). Before moving to Dallas with her husband, Esther had previously lived in Houston where she sobered up attending AA meetings. Finding no AA group in Dallas, she started AA meetings in her home. That was in 1943. In 1945, Esther and others established Dallas’s first formally designated AA group, the Downtown Group at 912½ Main Street. Esther died in June 1960 with more than 19 years of sobriety. Her copy of the Big Book, which is inscribed by AA co-founder Bill W., is on display in the Dallas Intergroup Association headquarters at 6162 East Mockingbird Avenue.
The Whitehouse Group Emerges from the Suburban Group
As World War II military personnel returned from service, demand for AA services increased. This led to creation of the second AA group in Dallas, the Suburban Group, first located near Lee Park (corner of Dickason Avenue and Sale Street, just north of Downtown). Searcy W., who attended Downtown Group meetings after he moved to Dallas from Lubbock in 1946, was one of the Suburban Group’s founders. The Suburban Group functioned until 1985. With its demise, several new groups emerged. The Whitehouse Group, formed in 1985, started by fourteen individuals led by Searcy, was one of the Suburban Group’s original spinoffs.
From 1985, when the Whitehouse Group emerged, until the early 1990s, its meetings were held in Searcy’s office. The Group’s founders chose the name Whitehouse Group because the white building, dubbed the “White House,” vaguely resembled the President’s home in Washington, DC. Built in 1961 for sales representatives, the “White House” still stands at 6115 Owens Street, although its address was originally 6115 Denton Drive. When the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) line extended to that portion (the west side) of Denton Drive, the street was renamed Owens Street.
In the early 1990s, the Whitehouse Group moved to Searcy’s new office at 2523 Bomar Avenue, just around the corner from its original location. Space in the new building was similar to that of the “White House” space with small office space in front and an unfinished area for storage, etc. in back. The Whitehouse Group held meetings at 2523 Bomar Avenue until shortly after Searcy’s death in 2003. In January 2004, the Group moved to 5925 Maple Avenue. In 2006, the Group learned that all future leases at that location would be on a month-to-month basis. This was because the building’s owner planned to sell the property and, in all probability, the new owner would replace the existing building with an apartments complex. Therefore, in January 2008, the Whitehouse Group moved to its current location in the Education Building (south annex) of the Bethany Missionary Baptist Church at 6710 Webster Street, just east of Love Field Airport. The Church has a long history in Dallas dating to 1914 although at a different location. The Whitehouse Group is truly grateful to the Church, which has been a gracious and considerate landlord.
Searcy’s Legacy Endures
A personal friend of AA co-founders Bill W. and Dr. Bob, Searcy became and remains posthumously a legendary figure widely respected for his service to AA. Up to his death in 2003, Searcy served as the Whitehouse Group’s most senior elder statesman and continued to champion causes for AA throughout the Dallas - Fort Worth area. Searcy’s interview with the Dallas Intergroup Association in 1999 provides a glimpse of his efforts to help alcoholics. Among his enduring contributions was bringing the Gathering of Eagles to Dallas in 1989. That conference started in Corpus Christi in 1986 but was discontinued there after three years. Thanks to Searcy’s vision, Dallas has continued to host the annual Memorial Day weekend conference that attracts hundreds of recovering alcoholics and members of Al-Anon from the Dallas - Fort Worth area, other locations in Texas, and other states. Searcy worked tirelessly to keep the Gathering of Eagles functioning for 14 years. His last annual Eagles conference was Memorial Day weekend 2003 before he passed away on September 30, 2003 at 93 years of age with 57 years of sobriety. The Gathering of Eagles’ History section describes Searcy’s involvement in the conference and also includes two photos of him. One photo shows him in his office in 1996 after he celebrated 50 years of sobriety, and the other, taken in 1950, shows him and his wife Margaret with AA co-founder Bill W.
All of the Whitehouse Group owes a debt of gratitude to Searcy and the other Whitehouse Group founders who had the vision to create the Group and to champion AA traditions that have allowed it to endure.
Open Meetings: A Key Feature of the Group's History
Searcy and the other founders agreed that the Whitehouse Group meetings should be open to anyone who might benefit from AA’s program of recovery. They recognized that primarily alcoholics with a desire to stop drinking would be interested in the meetings but others might also like to attend. The Whitehouse Group has continued an Open meeting policy from the beginning. Mostly alcoholics with a desire to stop drinking have attended the meetings. However, the meetings have included alcoholics who haven’t stopped drinking, occasional drinkers trying to determine if they are alcoholics, individuals ordered by courts to attend AA meetings, friends and loved ones of alcoholics, those studying for or already working in the medical field, and others wanting to learn about alcoholism or to support those seeking a path of recovery.
While the Group’s Open meeting policy has prevailed since day one, the meeting arrangement has changed slightly over time. From the start, the Whitehouse Group has offered 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. Discussion meetings Monday through Friday. Until a few years ago, there was also a Saturday 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. Discussion meeting, a Tuesday and Thursday 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. Discussion meeting, and a Friday 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. Speaker meeting. In recent years, the Whitehouse Group has followed the schedule and format described in OUR MEETINGS. Except for the last Friday of each month, Discussion meetings are offered 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and are centered on the daily topics from AA’s Daily Reflections. Every member has the opportunity to join the discussion. Meetings on the last Fridays of the month are Speaker meetings in which speakers are invited to speak to the group.
Keeping the Traditions Alive
Thanks to the devotion and altruism of its founders, the Whitehouse Group has played a rich role in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous in Dallas. With the help of those who have continued with its mission, the Whitehouse Group has helped countless numbers of alcoholics since 1985. Its members have been committed to share their experience, strength, and hope with those seeking a path of recovery and to make its meetings available to anyone interested in learning about how AA works.
To ensure that the Whitehouse Group upholds AA’s Tradition Five, “Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers,” a Group Conscience is held immediately after the regular Discussion meeting on the second Wednesday of each month. Like all other Whitehouse Group meetings, the Group Conscience is open to anyone wanting to attend. Abiding by Tradition Five has been a distinctive characteristic of the Group's history, and the Group Conscience will ensure its continuation.