Who are the Hicks babies? A legacy linked to illegal adoptions in rural North Georgia

HICKS BABIES REUNITE--June 21, 2014 Ducktown, Tennessee - Melinda Elkins Dawson (right), of Canton, Ohio, who is one of Hicks Babies and organizer, gets a hug from Connie Sayers of Copperhill, Tennessee, who is a possible relative of Hicks baby, after Sayers had her DNA swab sampling done at Ocoee River Inn in Ducktown, Tennessee on Saturday, June 21, 2014. Melinda Elkins Dawson is one of about 200 babies who were sold from a clinic in McCaysville, GA in the 1950s and 1960s. Known as the Hicks Babies or the Hicks Adoptees, about 27 people, hoping to find their biological parents and get family medical histories, gathered Saturday in Ducktown, TN for DNA sample collection. Dawson worked with Ohio-based DNA Diagnostics Center to arrange free cheek-swab sampling Saturday at Ocoee River Inn in Ducktown, Tennessee, a few miles from where the clinic was located. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

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HICKS BABIES REUNITE--June 21, 2014 Ducktown, Tennessee - Melinda Elkins Dawson (right), of Canton, Ohio, who is one of Hicks Babies and organizer, gets a hug from Connie Sayers of Copperhill, Tennessee, who is a possible relative of Hicks baby, after Sayers had her DNA swab sampling done at Ocoee River Inn in Ducktown, Tennessee on Saturday, June 21, 2014. Melinda Elkins Dawson is one of about 200 babies who were sold from a clinic in McCaysville, GA in the 1950s and 1960s. Known as the Hicks Babies or the Hicks Adoptees, about 27 people, hoping to find their biological parents and get family medical histories, gathered Saturday in Ducktown, TN for DNA sample collection. Dawson worked with Ohio-based DNA Diagnostics Center to arrange free cheek-swab sampling Saturday at Ocoee River Inn in Ducktown, Tennessee, a few miles from where the clinic was located. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Research by one of the adoptees has identified 200 birth certificates of babies born between 1952 and 1965 in McCaysville, Ga. and placed for adoption

In 1997, Jane Blasio first shared the story of her illegal adoption with a newspaper in Akron, Ohio. On the heels of a TLC series “Taken at Birth,” that began airing in 2019, Blasio, 56, has released a memoir of the same name that shares the story of her journey to uncover her past and the questionable practices of a small town doctor in North Georgia.

Thomas Jugarthy Hicks, died in 1972 but he left behind a legacy that has divided many residents in the town of McCaysville. He had done prison time for selling drugs in Tennessee and lost his medical license in that state, according to an AJC story from 1997. So Hicks ventured across state lines and opened Hicks Clinic in McCaysville, just two blocks away from his house in Tennessee.

On the one hand, Hicks was the well-respected town doctor who offered medical services to poor copper mining families. But some residents said he seemed to be leading a double life. Hicks was also conducting illegal abortions, sometimes involuntary, and he was selling babies to families for prices ranging from $100 to $1,000.

ExplorePhotos: The Hicks babies gather

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Melinda Elkins Dawson of Canton, Ohio- One of Hicks babiesMelinda Elkins Dawson of Canton, Ohio, who is one of about 200 babies who were sold from the Hicks' Clinic in the 1950s and 1960s, getting her DNA swab sampling in Ducktown, Tennessee, only

In 1964, Hicks was arrested for performing an abortion after one patient, described as a brunette in her 20s from Cobb County, reported him to authorities. He gave up his medical license in Georgia in order to stop the criminal proceedings, but he didn’t stop illegal adoptions.

In 1965, Blasio’s adoptive parents drove from Ohio, paid $1,000 cash and a received their new baby through the car window, swaddled in a blanket and still caked with dried blood. When Blasio’s adoptive mother died in 1988, her father shared all he knew of the family secret and Blasio embarked on a journey to learn as much as she could about Doc Hicks.

ExploreOPINION: Georgia’s adoption laws evolve, aim to address past concerns

After many trips to McCaysville, Blasio, with assistance from a local judge, uncovered about 200 birth certificates of babies born between 1952 and 1965 that had been falsified with the names of adoptive parents rather than birth parents.

With the advent of commercially available DNA testing, about 30 Hicks babies descended on the town in 2014 hoping to find their birth families.

For Blasio, that moment came in 2017 when she got a hit through ancestry.com and found her father who had died in 2010. She has since reconnected with extended family members.

“I found what I wanted to find and that has put some closure on that for me, but I will never stop thinking about everyone else who came out of the Hicks Clinic,” said Blasio during a 2021 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Where is McCaysville, Ga?

Previous coverage from the AJC

From 1997: A town’s secret - The story of a Georgia doctor and his illegal adoption clinic

From 2014: Now grown, Hicks babies turn to DNA to find birth families

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