The Hicks Babies

In the mid-1940s, Dr. Thomas Jugarthy Hicks opened the Hicks Community Clinic in the small town of McCaysville, Georgia, mere steps from the Tennessee state line.  Within a decade, he was not only performing illegal abortions but selling newborns on the black market.  Some birth mothers knew they were placing a baby for adoption, some thought they had an abortion, and some were told their infants died.

The former Hicks Clinic as seen from the back alley today. Newborns were handed out a window to waiting adoptive parents.

 

At the other end of the transaction, adoptive parents drove to a window in the alley behind the clinic, shelled out $1,000 or more—big money for the time—and were handed a newborn.  The so-called “Hicks Babies” had falsified birth certificates, and Dr Hicks kept no records tying them to their biological families.  Many had no idea they were adopted until well into adulthood.

There was a tip-off, though.  No matter where they grew up—most often in the industrial cities of Ohio—their birth certificates said they were born in the Hicks Clinic in McCaysville, Georgia.

A falsified birth certificate from the Hicks Clinic. Used with permission of Bill Palmisano.  Both of his adoptive parents are deceased.

 

At least 200 babies had their identities stolen.  Now, they are using the power of DNA to reunite with their biological families.  I am honored to be part of the behind-the-scenes team of passionate and compassionate people who helped some of them in their journeys.

You can follow their life-changing stories in a three-night series, Taken at Birth, airing October 9th-11th, 2019, on TLC.

 

Additional Reading

Corinthios, Aurelie. 2019. New TLC Special Taken At Birth Dives into Shocking ‘Hicks Babies’ Black Market Adoption Scandal. People, accessed 17 September 2019.

Bragg, Rick. 1997. Town Secret Is Uncovered In Birth Quest. New York Times, accessed 17 September 2019.

Bruen, Matthew Steven. 2016. Babies For Sale: The Secret Adoptions That Haunt One Georgia Town. Narratively, accessed 17 September 2019.

Chang, Juju, Jasmine Brown, Geoff Martz and Lauren Effron. 2015. ‘Hicks Baby’ Adoptee Sold by Georgia Doctor 50 Years Ago Reunites With Birth Mother, Brother. ABC News, accessed 17 September 2019.

Table, Dave. 2017. Busted not for selling babies, but for the abortion clinic. Appalachian History, accessed 17 September 2019.

 

 

115 thoughts on “The Hicks Babies”

  1. i am interested in the hicks babies i supposely had a brother who died in the early 1950s i would like to know if he is still alive

      1. DNA geek,
        I just wanted to say I watch this show about a little girl. Her name is Alana ” honey boo boo” if you don’t know who she is you can google her. Anyways the family is from Georgia and they film there as well. The reason I am writing is this. The man that is Dr.Hicks first stolen, one of the twins. Well he and Alanna’s birth father very similar. You can see for yourself google him. Thank you

      2. I had a brother who was given up for adoption by his mother in Tennessee. It would’ve been 1964.
        I am happy to offer a dna sample if possible.

        1. Have you checked the adoption registries to see if he’s looking for his biological family?

        2. I am helping a relative looking for his birth parents or siblings. He was born in April 1964 Sumner County TN from what he knows.

    1. I am watching the TV documentary on Dr. Hicks and do not believe he should be so vilified. Were it not for him encouraging these women to have their babies, these children would have never been given a chance at life. $1000 was not a tremendous amount of money when you think about the birth mothers’ room and board for one month (they had no money, they paid nothing) prior to the birth, plus 24 hr a day Nursing care. Just keeping an RN on duty, even in the 1950’s -‘60’s, was a big expense. He deserved to be paid for his time and services as well – after all, this was time he could have spent seeing other patients, and medical equipment and supplies are not cheap. His family did not live like they had money – in fact most of his money appeared to be put right back into the town of McKaysville – into businesses which kept folks employed and kept the town thriving. Remember that these women had no where else to go, no one to turn to. They wanted to be rid of their babies and were desperate. He gave them good care. And he gave the babies to equally desperate childless parents. What he did was completely illegal, but was it less moral than aborting these babies? He took HUGE risks for essentially very little in return, in fact he did lose his medical license in 1964 for performing an abortion. I believe that he provided a valuable service, giving women an alternative, giving a baby a chance at life, giving a couple a chance to be parents. He did not have any choice but to lie on the birth certificates. All in all, I cannot condemn him.

      1. What Dr Hicks did was illegal. He told women their babies had died when they hadn’t. He sold those babies for a profit. One thousand dollars in 1955 would be nearly $10,000 today. And he was more than happy to perform abortions.

        1. I so agree with you. After watching this documentary I can see how he got away with it for so long. He was wrong and he did wrong so did the mayor and chief of police. They were all corrupt! Thankful for the granddaughter who went beyond what most would have to get answers. I hope all the people that are involved will find what ever it is they are looking for. Unless you were one of the babies there is no way you could know what it’s like to have this to happen to you. Love and hugs to them all!

      2. So telling a mother that her baby died at birth while he sold it out his back door was fine with you? Not a mother who wanted to give her baby up for adoption, but a mother who trusted her doctor? If you find ANYTHING humane or OKAY about that then God so help you! It sickens me to see any one make what he did look OKAY! I can promise you this, if there’s a hell, he is in the front row seat! These folks deserve to know where they came from!

        1. Apparently these women were seeking abortions, not babies. Instead of killing the children he delivered live infants, told the “mothers” their babies were dead, and gave the babies away to parents who wanted them.
          This is a story of a doctor who saved lives??
          This is a different story than what I expected!

        2. If they went there to have abortions and he told them what they wanted to hear, saved the lives of their babies and put them into the arms of loving parents, that makes him a hero in my eyes. You got a problem with that?

      3. I realize Dr. Hicks is not here to defend himself or answer questions, but I cannot imagine how you can defend him after what you heard. If he was truly compassionate and a good man he would not have lied to the mothers and told them they delivered a stillborn baby or that the baby died. That seems to be a repetitive theme amongst the living relatives. And then the consistent low birth weights are concerning. Why am I rehashing this. You saw it. You made your decision. My decision is there was something very wrong going on. It may have started with good intentions, but these “babies” deserve the truth and they deserve it now. Time is running out. I sincerely hope more can make connections before its too late.

        1. can you imagine waking up one day to find out accidently that you were adopted and come to find out through this show or other means that your wife is your sister or first cousin? And you’ve had children with them??? What he was doing in a lot of cases is absolutely wrong because of stuff like this.

        2. Ray, you bring up an excellent reason why everyone has the right to know who their biological family is.

      4. This man told women that their babies had died or were stillborn. What part of that is okay? How many women died themselves never knowing that they had a child or children out there and how many children, now adults, will never know their biological parents because it’s just too late and most of them have passed? These weren’t all women seeking abortions, a number of these women were seeking medical care for themselves and their unborn babies only to be robbed of that precious life. You’re as crazy as he was if you think he should even get a pat on the back for his time and services. He was a monster, a murderer, and a kidnapper, but he wasn’t a good man doing a good thing for helpless women.

      5. What people don’t realize is Doc Hicks started his practice in Tennessee. He delivered many babies in Tennessee before they ran him out of the state. He then relocated just across the line in McCaysville Georgia. One of those babies he delivered in Tennessee was my oldest brother who was supposedly still born. Mama named my brother Von Gordon. His name would have been Von Gordon Prince. Mama never got over this. She said she heard her baby cry then Doc Hicks told her he was still born. Mama told me they ran the doctor out of Tennessee after that because he was killing so many babies. I submitted my DNA in hopes that I might find my brother or some of his family.

        1. My heart aches for your mother and your whole family. I hope your brother decides to test someday.

        2. What years was he operating in TN, and where? My Dad was a black-market baby in 1941 in Akron OH. His birth certificate when he ent into the service was different than the one his parents had, so all I know its June 19 or 20, 1941. Hicks may not have been in Georgia during that time, but if he was in TN that might be a lead. If it wasn’t Hicks, there was someone doing the same thing during the war years – adopting babies out to Akron. And the $1k sounds about like what my Dad was sold for.

        3. Dr Hicks ran a clinic in McCaysville, Georgia, from about 1945 to 1965. Prior to that, he was practicing just across the state line in Copperhill, Tennessee, and could well have been selling babies then. Do you have your father’s original birth certificate? Does it say where he was born or the name of the doctor?

      6. What he provided were lies to young mothers and fathers who wanted their babies ! I know this first hand because of how it deeply hurt my mother for many, many years! You should be ashamed of yourself because you have no idea of the pain he caused many families!

      7. Somehow I missed this Documentary the first time it aired. I did see it just yesterday. Personally I hope that Dr Hicks is burning in hell! As far as they know the first baby that was adopted out was a twin. The “good” Dr told the mother they were still born. He “buried” them for her (such a nice guy) and gave her a birth certificate stating they were stillborn. One twin has not been found yet but the one that was found was adopted into a horrible family and had a really sad childhood. No one with half a brain can even think that is “good”. Furthermore, over 200 babies! We will never know the hell they have suffered. A sick, twisted & greedy man.

      8. He also delivered the babies early, between 31 & 34 wks causing them to have low birthweight and health issues. These babies were born between 3.5 and 4.75 lbs….. very unfavorable!! He was protecting himself & looking out for his own financial interest!!! Shameful + Sinful + Criminal + Evil!!

        1. I Just don’t understand how anyone could possibly think what he did was right or just or in any way good at all!! That’s a totally twisted way of thinking!!!

      9. Oh my gosh Barbara, he also delivered the babies early, like induced at between 31 & 34 wks causing them to have low birthweight, failure to thrive and other health issues. These babies were born between weighing only 3.5 and 4.75 lbs….. ALL very unfavorable conditions!!!! They weren’t all there for abortions!! Otherwise he wouldn’t have needed to lie about them being stillborn. HE WAS A HORRIBLE MAN, JUST HORRIBLE!!! He was protecting himself due to his many illegitimacies & looking out for his own financial interest!!!
        Shameful + Sinful + Criminal + Evil!!

        I Just don’t understand how anyone could possibly think what he did was right or just or in any way good at all!! I’m sorry but that’s a totally twisted way of thinking in my view!!

      10. Then you missed the entirety of the story. He induced labor and delivered low birth weight babies that were in danger of dying. It is suspected that many of them did and there is rumor that perhaps he disposed of those little bodies in the river. Not sure how you can justify robbing mothers of their babies (some were told the babies died) or destroying the records so those that wanted to find their biological parents had no way of doing so. What he did has no merit. I understand the concept of not being able to conceive and being grateful to receive a child but that was not a win/win situation by any stretch of the imagination.

      11. Clearly, you have never lost a child. So many of the women were told their babies had died. I have had two of my children die. If you haven’t been there, you cannot possibly imagine what that is like. For him to lie to these women is unforgivable. Shame on him and all those who covered for him and his horrific lies.

      12. ALL OF THOSE CHILDREN WERE MESSED UP FROM THIS. THE ONE FAMILY HAD TWIN BOYS AND THE MAN WAS IN A FAMILY THAT HATED HIM HIS ENTIRE LIFE. HIS BIO FAMILY DIDNT FIND OUT ABT HIM UNTIL 60 YEARS LATER AND TOO LATE BECAUAE HIS MOTHER WAS I ALREADY DEAD. THIS POOR WOMAN THOUGHT HER TWIN BOYS HAD DIED. AND IN ALL ACTUALITY HICKS LIED TO HER TO GET HER TWIN BOYS AND MADE OVER 2000 OFF OF HER PAIN.

      13. He lied to many and told them their babies died! How can you condone that?

      14. He was inducing them around 30 weeks handing out 4lb babies to people. In 2020 a 4lb baby as a very good chance of not making it even with amazing NICUs in today’s age. Could you imagine the survival rate back then for babies 3lb or 4lbs. I am a mother of a baby born in 2016 at 30 weeks 3lbs in an amazing NICU I couldn’t imagine if my son was born in his condition back then. I’m disgusted that someone would think that this is ok. If you fully watched the documentary you would know that almost all the babies were 4lbs at birth weight or even SMALLER and he was doing this to hurry along the money. Ignorance is a terrible thing smh!!!!

        1. And he was stealing babies telling mothers that they delivered a still born. Could you imagine carrying your baby a whole pregnancy having a nursery all set up and you go to the hospital deliver your baby and be lied to that your baby died smh I’m speechless. The pain these mothers felt I could never imagine and not to mention how many of these babies died from being delivered wayyyy too prematurely. During the documentary they interviewed a dr that runs a NICU and he said absolutely many of these babies died from there extremely low birth weight and the “adoptive parents ” would have had no choice but to just “discard” them. Absolutely horrifying!!!!!

        2. Some babies were that small but not all of them. The birth certificates I’ve seen were in the 6-7 lb range.

      15. Wow! That is not correct. Women came to give birth, and were told their babies were stillborn! They were not, and he sold those babies. Women came to have abortions and he told them it was a successful procedure, only to take that premature baby and sell it to someone. Just horrible! Evil does not begin to describe this man.
        Those few cases were a woman gave birth knowing she did not want the baby, and Dr. Hicks found someone wanting to adopt, are far and few between! I agree that in those cases he did the right thing, but everything else he did was just horrible!

      16. He induced birth prematurely to make money. So yes he should be vilified! Theres probably a lot of dead babies because of his practices. Yes he had a choice he just made the wrong one for greed!!

      17. So telling the one mother her twin boys were stillborn is acceptable to you. Hicks lied, blatantly, to some of these women, hell probably 90% of them. So that he could make money. So all of what you said is ridiculous. How would you feel if you found out a child your told was dead is actually alive… I wish Hicks was alive to stand trial for what he did, he had no right.

      18. Are you kidding me. Are you on drugs. What he did was awful feel so bad for those mothers and children

      19. Are you for real?? This man was worse than the plague! This man not only took away people’s family history, but ruined their future as well. Think about it, some of these folks could fall in love with a relative and not even know it. Not to mention the fact that some of these birth mothers thought their babies DIED! Do you know how that can mentally affect a woman? And, even though it was illegal, many women thought they were having an abortion. How can this man NOT be vilified?! Please!

      20. Are you nuts? That $1000. Is like $10,000. in today’s market he did make money, he also induced those women into early labor to push those babies out putting the babies and mothers in jeopardy(I wonder how many died). He lied to those women whether they wanted their children or not.

      21. That is crazy! He induced births, told mothers their babies died and sold them! There is living proof, with dna, of one man, who along with his twin brother, was reported dead and buried by Dr. Hicks. You don’t want to vilify him? He is monster!!

      22. So, what you are saying is, when my mom went to deliver my BROTHER and was told he was born dead, yet she has nightmares TO THIS DAY that she heard her baby cry for her. She did NOT go to him for an abortion, she went to deliver MY BROTHER. Now, my family has to wonder, is he out there? How the hell would YOU feel? Buying or selling A CHILD…THERE IS EVERYTHING WRONG WITH THAT!

      23. Barbara, I shuttered when I read your comment! You really have no idea what you are talking about! I am from Tennessee before Dr Hicks moved across the state line to McCaysville Ga. He delivered my oldest brother. My parents were a young married couple and very much wanted their baby! As a matter of fact she grieved the rest of her life for her first born she thought had died!

      24. Exactly! Thank you! I kept yelling at the tv he saved your freaking life!!!! I was waiting for one “mother” to come on and say that they were told that their baby had died, but nope. They did have several that admitted they went in for an abortion I’m sure the guy was no saint, but i think he was saving these babies

    2. Try DNA ancestry.com…I found my biological father this way…best way to find out if you have family is through DNA

  2. Interesting. My Hicks line starts in New York in 1833. Moves to NE Ohio and then to Michigan from 1868 to this day. My dad moved us to New Mexico when I was in my early teens but I have a brother who stayed in Michigan. My YDNA indicates I am not Hicks. You gotta wonder if this was a routine operation throughout history.

  3. i am from polk county tenn we are trying to find if our brother danny is still alive we have learned 3 dead babies in my family it is interesting

    1. Janice, I am from Polk County Tennessee as well and Dr Hicks delivered my oldest brother before they ran him out of Tennessee. I would love to be able to find him or maybe some of his family. I know your heart aches.

      1. Has your family done any dna tests like 23andme or ancestry? If he is out there and looking he may have tried the dna route. I hope you guys can find what your looking for. Dr. Hicks is horrible. I personally think he is a sociopath and I wonder if he could have been a Serial Killer as well. We don’t know anything about the adults he has seen. On the documentary the officer in the second episode claimed he gave a relative of his a shot and she died 30min later. Her only health problem was asthma. I wondering how far the rabbit hole goes with him.

        1. I am by no means defending Dr Hicks’ black-market adoption practices, but it’s important to remember that, even today, people die from asthma attacks. It can be a serious disease.

    1. If he’s alive, hopefully he’ll see the TV show and decide to test. Are you in all of the DNA databases?

  4. we are not in the dna data bases but i would be glad to give my dna to find out what happened just point me in the right direction i will be watching tlc hicks babies

    1. Dr Hicks didn’t keep records of the births and adoptions, so the only way to find your brother, if he’s still alive, would be if he decided to look for you using DNA. If he does, you’ll want to be in whichever database he decides to use. Since you can’t know which one in advance, your most cost-effective strategy is to test with AncestryDNA and 23andMe and then transfer the “raw data file” into the other databases for free.

      Test prices are here: https://thednageek.com/dna-tests/
      23andMe is on sale right now, so it’s a good time to buy. Their lower-priced test is fine for your purposes.

      Instructions for how to transfer the “raw data file” to MyHeritage and FTDNA are here: https://thednageek.com/how-to-transfer-your-ancestrydna-test-to-other-databases/

        1. Thank you. I may have a couple brothers out there. My oldest would have been born in Akron in 1960. The second would have been no later than 1962. My mom had two stillborn they told her. She never got over it.

  5. thank you so much for the information danny has 5 sisters and 1 brother looking for him

  6. Should anyone believe or just want to be a part of the DNA registry for The Nick’s Babies..please visit us on our webpage (Hick’s Adoptees)

    Thank You
    Melinda, of the ‘Hick’s Babies’