Friday, May 23, 2008

Busted not for selling babies, but for the abortion clinic

From 1951 to 1965 Dr. Thomas Jugarthy Hicks began to quietly offer babies for adoption from his Hicks Community Clinic in McCaysville, GA. Quietly, because the clinic he’d been running since the mid-1940s was not a licensed adoption agency. Hicks cared for the mundane health issues of local farmers and townspeople in the front of the clinic, while performing abortions, which were illegal during that period, in the back rooms.

Law or no law, he advertised his abortion services on phone booths, bus stations and bridges. Women came by bus, car and train to pay $100 to "fix their problem." A small airstrip was built in nearby Ducktown so the prominent could fly their daughters in from Atlanta and Chattanooga for an abortion.

fetal ultrasound imageHis black market baby-selling ring, which may have ‘moved’ as many as 200 babies with no questions asked, relied on young, poor women from North Georgia and Eastern Tennessee. They’d come to him for an abortion, and he persuaded some to carry the babies to full term. The women would reside in the clinic for a few months, or the good doctor would provide a room for them at his farm, or in the New York Hotel in adjoing Copperhill, TN, or in his apartments in the telephone company building.

Hicks knew he could count on word of mouth to bring in the baby buyers. The Fannin County Courthouse records list 49 babies, for example, who went to Summit County in Ohio. All the fathers who bought them worked in the Akron tire companies, except for a Cuyahoga Falls doctor who bought two babies. All the sales were arranged by a West Akron Goodrich employee who bought four babies for herself. All of them paid up to $1,000 for a baby no one could trace back to its mother.

Hicks made sure the birth certificates listed the people adopting as birth parents. The doctor kept no known records of the birth mothers, who discreetly vanished.

Thomas Hicks was no stranger to shady dealings. After getting his medical degree from Emory University in Atlanta in 1917, he moved to Copperhill, TN, but lost his medical license and served time in federal prison for selling narcotic pain killers to a veteran working undercover for the FBI.

While incarcerated, he studied a lung disease that kept copper miners from living past the age of 40.

Once out, he was hired by the Tennessee Copper Co. to treat miners. The only problem was, he filed more claims than there were miners with the disease.

After he was fired from that job, he opened up the Hicks Community Clinic in McCaysville.

Once a baby was available, Hicks wasted neither time nor words with his prospective buyers. "You have 24 hours to come or I call the next person on the list," he's reported to have said to more than one client.

Hicks warned his baby buyers not to be picky. If you told Hicks you only wanted a boy or you wanted a girl, you could forget about getting a baby.

It may never be known how many illegal adoptions were conducted by Dr. Hicks, who was stripped of his medical license in 1964, but never jailed. He was, after all, a member of the Copperhill Kiwanis and the Adams Bible Class of the First Baptist Church (to which he donated a Wurlitzer organ). He was known to give free medicine to the very poorest in town. He made house calls to those who couldn't otherwise get to his clinic.

Dr. Thomas Hicks' abortion clinic was an open secret tolerated by a town that appreciated the bulk of his medical contributions. "He didn't perform any services that anyone didn't request,'' noted local resident Marlene Matham Hardiman, who once rented an apartment from Hicks.

The court papers disbarring him made no mention of the black-market babies. The abortion charges against him were dropped, and he continued practicing for a time thereafter.

Thomas Hicks died of leukemia in 1972 at age 83. His lawyer, nurses, wife and son are dead. His only living relative, a daughter, lives in seclusion in North Carolina.,,20124848,00.html

Originally blogged at Appalachian History


Jessica said...

What an absolutely incredible story!

Anonymous said...

The man did a great deed for the time period he lived in. I know first hand the poverty & all that goes with it, of that time and place. I don't agree with the abortions, but the me, the right thing to do, for the time & place.

tennesseeguy said...

Dr. Hicks actually has several living relatives. I am his great-nephew; he was my grandmother's brother. I recall meeting him only once. I wish I could have gotten to know him.

alreadydecided said...

On a Saturday in 1959, when I was 15 years old, at the insistance of my mother, my aunt who lived in the suburb of Atlanta took me to this butcher. I was 5-1/2 months pregnant. He broke the bag of waters around my baby and prescribed ergot or ergotrate to induce an abortion. The medicine was a brown liquid, terrible, horrible tasting. A taste one never forgets. The baby did not pass. I began to get very sick, fever and trembling. The following Saturday we made the trip back to see the butcher again. There were men standing guard on each corner of the streets around his clinic. My uncle was concerned about what they might be walking into. I was laying in the back seat vomiting and trembling. He and my aunt felt there was no choice so we went right in. Into the room murders were committed. The butcher wanted to give me medication to put me out but I refused. I heard the cutting. He literally cut my baby into pieces to get it out of me. When he finished I saw my baby as a pile of cut up pieces in a pan. It was a horrible experience. Only as I got older did I realize how near death I was myself. By the grace of God I recovered.
Even though it was not my decision to kill my baby I suffered guilt for years.
A few years ago I saw an article such as the one here, in a newspaper or magazine. I was stunned because I had no idea of the magnitude of what happened in that building. Now, seeing it again on the internet I have to tell what happened to me there. I hope it will inspire others to share their experiences, too.

Anonymous said...

The man was a murderer, and not one to be honored in any way shape or form. Sadly, this continues today legally, yet places like Planned Parenthood do not give you the real statistics of what really happens to women who have abortions. Their emotional and often physical pain, the suicide rate is far higher than the norm, and the psychological effects can be devastating. Anyone who thinks that murdering the unborn for your own convenience needs to realize that they are not thinking normally.

Anonymous said...

DR.Hicks is burning in hell for what he done to the women and babies,I found my sister who was born at this clinic thru DNA.I have several friends who are Hicks Babies,They know nothing no medical no history of bio family.And the people of McCaysville will not talk.COME ON LOOK HOW LONG IT HAS BEEN GIVE UP THE INFO PEOPLE YOU CLAIM YOU KNOW BIRTHMOTHERS NAMES WHY NOT TELL THEM.

Anonymous said...

"His black market baby-selling ring, which may have ‘moved’ as many as 200 babies with no questions asked, relied on young, poor women from North Georgia and Eastern Tennessee. "

Your statement above is not 100% correct. Dr. Hicks was greatly known to the wealthy in Atlanta and Chattanooga who flew their daughters in for abortions, or to adopt out their babies.

Girls waiting to have babies were housed throughout town, and worked for their keep - dry cleaners.

Area folks did not/do not talk because first of all, to most, they didn't know first hand if things were true.

Dr. Hicks was absolutely wrong giving abortions, and IF he asked for forgiveness prior to his death, he is not burning in hell.

For those who aborted, whether by choice or forced by family, my heart goes out to you. Having worked (conducting forgiveness small groups) I've learned how abortion affects the mother, and please forgive yourself because if you ask Christ to forgive you, He does and he wipes the sin away. And the areas of your life that have been affected, well, make a conscious effort to change where change is needed. He will be there with you, never leaving you.

And, to those who were black market heart goes out to you. I have no idea what you're experiencing and believe you have right to be upset. But, one thing where we can be thankful is that you were given life and weren't aborted. My prayer is you find the answers in which you are seeking, and especially for medical reasons. I pray that the birth others will have the courage and strength to come forward and be able to igore the judgement of people who can be so ugly.

As fact, there was also a good side to Dr. Hicks. He helped many, and he was kind and generous to my family. NOTE, that does not condone the wrong things that were done, but it does point out he DID have a good side to him.

Anonymous said...

OK so he was good to your family BIG DEAL ,so what are you a BIRTH MOM or WHAT ELSE DO YOU KNOW since you seem to know so much?MY MOM ALMOST DIED IN HIS CLINIC DID YOU KNOW THAT.AND YES he did do some abortions where THE BABIES LIVED DID YOU KNOW THAT,I happen to know some of the ones who lived.WELL you knew a crazy man SO DID MY FAMILY and he was crazy,many members of my family and others from there have told me there stories.OH and YOU are WRONG there are MORE THAN 200 BABIES A LOT dont call anyone ugly.


To all the people who praise Dr.Hicks I am a Hicks Baby So are my siblings I was raised with,One was an aborted baby boy that lived he is now 55yrs Old,They did not all go to good family.The people who bought these babies were not considered suitable parents through legal adoption.That is why they went to Hicks.We were nothing more than slaves,Buyers made there own birth certificates and made up birth dates and yrs.AND BABIES came from MARRIED AND unmarried women,some were stolen and given dead babies in there place I KNOW WHO SOME OF THESES MOTHERS ARE DO YOU KNOW?In order to cover their tracks they filled out death certificates for the stolen babies.And if you think it was 200 Babies WRONG MORE LIKE 5000 Babies and YES THAT IS A FACT.AND NOT ALL THE WOMEN WERE POOR THAT IS AN IGNORANT REMARK.MY Family who BOUGHT ME WERE RELATED TO HICKS SO THERE WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY NOW.DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM DID YOUR FAMILY HAVE GIRLS LIVING WITH THEM.If He was SUCH A GREAT MAN WHY DID HE GO TO PRISON AND STEAL FROM THE DEAD.THIS MAN STOLE ME AND GAVE ME A DEATH CERTIFICATE SO MY BIRTH FAMILY THINKS I AM DEAD AND it says I AM A TWIN TWO GIRLS.AND BY THE WAY MY Brother I was Raised with Died in 2003 He was a HICKS BABY and NAMED AFTER THIS EVIL DR.HICKS HE NEVER FOUND WHO HIS BIRTH FAMILY WAS.SO KEEP ON THINKING HE WAS A GOOD MAN I WOULD HATE TO SEE WHAT EVIL IS IF HE WAS GOOD.

alreadydecided said...

The damage this man has done amazes me. What evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Anonymous said...

Most people in this area, (mccaysville/copperhill) didn't know what went on in that clinic. As a child, my sister and myself used to pick and sell him blackberries. When my future father-inlaw was killed in the mines, my future mother in law was 7 months pregnant with her youngest child, Doc Hicks would not accept payment for the birth. This man must have had a Jekle/Hyde type of personality. I have lived here all my life, and never had heard any of this until it because public a few years back. What a horrible thing to do to innocent children.

Anonymous said...

I was born at the Hicks Clinic and the ones that were adopted might be called the "lucky ones", they got out of the trap of poverty and ignorance. My mother kept me, even though she could not provide for me. I was a prize to flaunt in front of her married lover ( who I never knew) and his family, that was the only reason she took me from the clinic. I wish she had the courage and decency to adopt me out to a mother and father who wanted a child, had a regular paycheck, a home, clothes that you weren't ashamed of and decent shoes, books, dolls, so much I and others like me did not have. I know what the mountain people are like, what they won't tell you to your face they will whisper behind your back and for the rest of their lives, they will tell the story of where and how, the dirty details of who you "really" are. I might have lived a better life, gotten an education (I tested in the 99th percentile in standardized testing in the 24 schools I attended in 18 years). These mothers were not capable of taking care of their children, do not romanticize the way of life in that area. No jobs, no welfare,dirt roads, living in tarpaper/clapboard shacks with outhouses. There was no place for you at the table only a pallet on the floor. That was the reality. Yes, I can trace my genealogy back to the 1700's but that is cold comfort after a life of neglect and abuse. I am "the bastard out of Carolina". If you had any semblance of a normal family life, thank God for it, because you would not have had it with your birth mother, she was at the Hicks Clinic for a reason. There would not have been a happy celebration if she brought you back home. "Black market baby" sounds so much better to me than "you little bastard".

Anonymous said...

doc hicks delivered my mom and all my aunts and uncles . i heard stories and hushed rumors about my aunt and my mom being one half of a twin , it was rumored that the babies were sold . my grandma had alot of kids and was poor as dirt , they were born and raised to a certain age in mccaysville , our familys last name is wright . my mom still does not know her true age , my uncle still has no birth record because it was said that when a "cousin " helped dump the records it was also lost . rumour also has it that my dear aunt was a midwife in just her teens for doc hicks . we can only hope she finally will tell the truth to us one day . i am truley digusted by this man , he has caused so much turmoil for the wright family .

Anonymous said...

I'm a Hicks baby. I've known all my life that I was adopted. I had a wonderful childhood but made so many terrible mistakes as an adult. I have to wonder if some of the issues that I have had could be traced to my feelings of abandonment. As I see my grandchildren grow up, I still have that voice inside me that whispers that I don't know who I am. How do I explain the medical issues that appeared in my 20's and 30's? I have so many questions and know that I'll never have answers for any of them. How dare Hicks take away the opportunity for me to know my history. It's been 15 years since I discovered most of this story and I'm still bewildered by much of this.

Anonymous said...

I would love to have contact with any one that was a Hicks baby or knows someone that is or that was sent to hicks to have an abortion I am a Hicks baby told I was a twin and my cousin has found her sister through DNA.If anyone will contact me let me know thru this site and I will come back and leave an email for you to reach me I will keep all of your info private.

Anonymous said...

I pray all of the girls who's families forced them to give up their babies will be reunited with their child. The wrong that this man and the others did cannot be undone but with prayer all things are possible and these mothers and their children can be reunited and share a future together. I guess what I am saying is the wrong cannot be undone but it is possble to try to give these people the possibility of a future together. I believe God would look upon anyone with information mercifully for putting forth that information.

Anonymous said...

U can contact me at

Anonymous said...

If you don't mind me asking what medical issues..could possibly have info you can con tact me at

kim wright said...

This man delivered my dad and a few of his siblings. My dad is named after this dr because my grandma really liked him and thought he was a good dr. I am looking for any info on this dr and also now wondering if he sold any of my dads siblings, and no one knows of it, or if he did anything strange to them at the time. My aunt has a scar, from a surgery she never had, which she found out about when she went for heart surgery a few years ago. She needed the vein that for this surgery, and it was removed when she was super young, possibly as a baby. None of her siblings even knew about it. My eldest aunt knows and remembers some of this drs history but will not talk.

Regina Johnson said...

I am in search of a person who might be my half brother, and of which was born in the Hicks Clinic (this I am not sure of) although searching through a few sources has lead me to this conclusion.
This child would have been born perhaps in the 60's, a boy?
Dark hair, or red hair as my mother has dark hair, Indian blood, slim, and from Cherokee County NC. I believe Hicks played a pivotal role in the birth of this child, and was sold.
My family was poor, mother left with 8 other children all girls. Please contact me if you feel this might be you. I know this information is rather vague, I do not have much to go on..I do know for sure there is someone out there who is my sibling, and would like to know them.

Brittany Terhart said...

I am searching for my mother's family. She was adopted from the Hicks clinic by a couple from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Her birth certificate lists her birthday as January 1st 1964. If you have any information please do not hesitate to email me at or I also have a Facebook account under the name Brittany Heard.

Brittany Terhart said...

My mother is a Hicks baby you can contact me at or

lsmyp1 said...

Family secrets..i see a Lifetime Movie in the furture. He was wrong and with a warm heart at the same time a crook.