The Real Story of Thomas J. Hicks, the Man Behind the Black Market Adoption Scandal

The "Hicks Babies" explore their past in TLC's "Taken at Birth."

In the 1950s and early 1960s, more than 200 newborn babies were illegally sold or given away through a clinic run by Dr. Thomas J. Hicks in the small town of McCaysville, Georgia. Now, more than half a century later, TLC’s upcoming special Taken At Birth will reveal untold stories about the “Hicks Babies” and their ongoing search for their biological families.

The show is led by Jane Blasio, the youngest of the known Hicks Babies, who works with TLC’s Long Lost Family co-hosts Chris Jacobs and Lisa Joyner to unravel the mystery of Hicks’ crimes.

Here’s everything you should know about Thomas J. Hicks and his black market business before tuning in to the three-night, six-hour event debuting Oct. 9.

Who was Thomas J. Hicks?

Hicks was the beloved town doctor in the tiny mountain town of McCaysville, but women came from miles around to seek his services. He reportedly performed abortions, which were illegal at the time, for $100.

taken at birth thomas j hicks
TLC’s "Taken at Birth" will explore Thomas J. Hicks.
TLC

He also secretly placed infants with out-of-state parents in off-the-books adoptions. Hicks gave up his medical license in 1964 after he was indicted on charges of performing an illegal abortion. He died in 1972 at age 83, which was 25 years before the shocking story of his black market baby ring came to light.

How did his black market business work?

In the early 1950s, Hicks reportedly began advertising illegal abortion and adoption services on phone booths, bus stations, and bridges. The doctor persuaded some of the women who came to him for abortions to carry their pregnancies to term, and then sold the infants to couples for $800 to $1,000.

According to ABC News, he also reportedly lied to some of his patients, telling them their baby had died and then selling the newborn from the back steps of his clinic. He gave the adoptive parents a fake birth certificate and left no records of the birth mothers.

One of the Hicks Babies, Melinda Dawson, told CBS that her adoptive parents paid $1,000 for her in 1962.

"They were instructed to come down...come through the front door, pick the baby up and leave through the back door and, and go home immediately," Dawson said.

How did the story break?

The shocking truth broke in 1997 after several Hicks Babies began to uncover the dark secret of their backstories. In 2014, Ancestry.com and ABC News helped the Hicks Babies conduct DNA tests on themselves and members of the McCaysville community.

TLC
Jane Blasio is the youngest of the known Hicks Babies.
TLC

But decades later, many of the Hicks Babies are still looking for their birth parents. Using DNA, door-to-door interrogations, and a mausoleum search, Taken at Birth continues the quest to reunite the Hicks Babies with their biological families.

Taken at Birth airs Oct. 9 through Oct. 11 from 9-11 p.m. ET on TLC.

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