Five Little-Known Facts About The Council

The Council on Recovery is Houston’s oldest and largest non-profit provider of addiction prevention, education, treatment and recovery support services, having served our community for 75 years. Here are five little-known facts about The Council that briefly illustrate its longevity, growth, and commitment to the Houston community.

The Council’s origins go back to original founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, needed to raise awareness that alcoholism was a disease, and not a moral weakness. Marty Mann stepped up to the challenge and traveled across the United States to educate the public and fight the stigma of addiction. Marty’s lecture in Houston in the fall of 1946 inspired local community members to organize the Houston Committee for the Education on Alcoholism, now called The Council on Recovery.

We had 208 calls in the first year of offering services to the Houston community.

The Committee opened an information center in July 1952 under the direction of Frances A. Robertson to help Houston’s estimated 40,000 alcoholics. This was its first major effort to support those struggling with alcohol abuse. Over the next 75 years, the organization expanded both its reach as it grew larger and technology evolved, and its scope, as it implemented programs to address individuals and families on all points on the spectrum of addiction. In 2020, our intake team received more than 14,000 calls, with an average of 1,360 calls a month.  

We once had our own TV show.

Long before we began treating clients directly, The Council’s roots were in community education and awareness. We achieved this through phone calls, pamphlets, and radio appearances, but we also used the budding medium of television. In 1954, we produced a 10-week educational television program on KUHT – Channel 8.  Council staff member Mary Catherine Brown developed and hosted it.

We led the effort in Houston to treat people struggling with alcohol abuse with compassion.

For the first half of the 20th century, “revolving door” alcoholics who needed compassion and care were instead sent to prison, sanitariums, or, specifically in Houston, penal labor farms just outside the city. From the 1950s to the 1970s, The Council led an interagency effort to establish multiple halfway houses and detox centers in Houston to enable these people to recover and become contributing members of their community.

five facts about The Council

Our first fundraiser was a barbecue in 1948.

Early records include newspaper clippings advertising a barbecue fundraiser in support of the Houston Committee for the Education on Alcoholism in April 1948. Entertainment for this event included a one-act play entitled “What Can We Do?” which illustrated the Committee’s history and work. Our inaugural luncheon event was in the spring of 1984, and featured former first lady and mental health advocate Betty Ford as the keynote speaker. This event spawned the popular speaker series that continues today and has raised millions of dollars in support of local families impacted by addiction.

Learn more about the rich history of The Council on Recovery in our 75th anniversary feature, Hope Ripples Out, and consider making a gift to help continue our vital work for the next 75 years and beyond.

Join Us in Celebrating our 75th Anniversary & Mel Taylor’s Legacy

Upon reflection, the first ripple is always memorable. Perhaps it was a small wave, a tiny wrinkle that subtly disturbed the surface, growing wider nonetheless. Other times the ripple is rapid and dynamic … a disruptive momentum that may forever change all touched by the waves. In either instance, a ripple is potentially the most powerful catalyst at the start of a new story.

At The Council on Recovery, we know about the ripple effect, it’s how our story – our journey – began. But the story of The Council is not just ours. It is the story of millions of lives touched by our work, and how their recoveries have rippled out across time to make our world a better place.

We have long understood that every person’s challenge with addiction touches everyone and everything around them. This is why we are so deeply committed to helping every individual discover his or her power to harness the momentum of healing and positively impact others.

For 75 years, we have been a powerful center of hope, spreading waves of light across the dark and lonely landscape of addiction. From our humble beginnings with one phone and a single employee, we sought to reach out, to educate and serve. That focus has endured over the years and especially blossomed under the leadership of President and CEO Mel Taylor. Together, we have created models for treatment and collaboration that have become systems of care across the community. We have trained tens of thousands of professionals and strategically mapped our future to ensure longevity in the communities we serve.  

Join us Friday, April 22, 2021, from 12-1 pm for a special 75th anniversary celebration of The Council on Recovery to honor the work of our founders, board members, partners, staff, clients and our supporters. And help us celebrate the retirement of our President and CEO Mel Taylor and the 28 years of ripples he has created through his vision and servant leadership.

At The Council on Recovery, we have always believed that everyone has a contribution to make to the world. That’s why our work is so important and so powerful. Every life touched by The Council reaches out to another and another. The tide swells with every milestone, and together we are forging a better world.

To sponsor this special event, click here, or text COUNCIL75 to 41444. For questions on this event and sponsorships, contact Special Events at (281) 200-9336 or specialevents@councilonrecovery.org.

Celebrating the Story of The Council

Over the last six months, the communications team has been combing through The Council’s archives in preparation for our 75th Anniversary, poring over thousands of photos, mementos, newspaper clippings, board minutes, flyers, planning documents, and notes. Our goal was simple: to celebrate the story of The Council.

Throughout the coming year, we want to bring that story to each of you – the story of our roots and evolution; our victories and setbacks; the story of attitudes that changed with time and those that remained stubbornly the same; and of the defining values and principles that guided us through the decades to make The Council the organization it is today. Most importantly, we want people to see The Council’s impact on Houston over the last three-quarters of a century and to join us in redoubling our efforts in the years ahead with renewed vigor and excitement. 

The reality is that our work is not yet done, nor do we expect it to ever be fully finished.

In 1957, Dr. Spencer Bayles, a board member of The Council who also supervised our Alcoholic Treatment Clinics, said, “The Council cannot expect to be able to treat all the alcoholics in Houston…[instead] its function should be to point the way and to train others in the treatment process.”

Dr. Bayles’ words still ring true today. The magnitude of addiction in our community cannot be solved by our efforts alone. But we believe today – just as we believed 75 years ago – that addiction is a disease that can be treated and that it is worth our best efforts. And we will never stop pointing the way to recovery.

Story of the council
Mrs. Frances Robertson at The Council’s information center in the State National Building in the early 1950s.

The story of The Council is not just our own. Instead, it is the story of the millions – yes, millions – of lives touched by our work, and how their recoveries have rippled out across time to make our world a better place.

As we celebrate our accomplishments this year, we invite you to join with us to tell your own Council story. After all, you have trusted us over the last 75 years with your time, talent, and treasure, and our work continues today for you and because of you. 

Contact us here to share your Council story today. To learn more about our rich history, click here.