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.
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.
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.
Nedra Rhone is a lifestyle columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where she has been a reporter since 2006. A graduate of Columbia University School of Journalism, she enjoys writing about the people, places and events that define metro Atlanta.