In April of 1996, Kellen Von Houser contacted a few local atheists by e-mail. She proposed getting together at some centrally located eatery for the purpose of discussing atheism. Some time later, she placed an advertisement in the back of The Chronicle. That small ad attracted the attention of a number of atheists, many of whom became very active in the group. ACA exists because of one woman's desire to end her atheist isolation and meet other atheists, and because of her willingness to work for it with her own time and money. Spike Tyson, director of American Atheists, also contacted local members and let them know about the new local group.
The group met at the Hot Jumbo Bagelry on the corner of West Fifth and Lavaca in downtown Austin. Things remained very informal for a number of months. In April and May there were about 12-14 people present, mostly members of American Atheists.
Early on, an Atheist e-mail discussion group was set up. This allowed atheists who couldn't make it to the bagel shop meetings a chance to engage in intelligent, reality-based conversation. By September however, meetings were down to only 8-10 people. Although 25-30 people had been attending meetings that summer, the disorganization and difficulty in hearing others talk in the bagelry must have frustrated many who showed up. Howard Thompson and Kellen discussed giving the meetings more structure so people knew what to expect. The group needed a "greeter", (Keith Berka started it right from the first), identification of who showed up, a newsletter, business time, and social/discussion time. It was decided that at least a semi-formal group structure was needed and planning for more formally establishing the group commenced.
One of the first tasks was the naming of the group. The choices were narrowed down to: Atheist Community of Austin, Atheist Society of Austin, and Capital City Atheists. The name Atheist Community of Austin won by a landslide.