Dr. Thomas Hicks died more than two decades before the black market baby adoptions came to light, but the doctor was not buried with his secrets.
Hicks died at age 83 in 1972, which was 25 years before the youngest of the Hicks babies, Jane Blasio, discovered the truth of her origins in 1997. Blasio, who now works as a private investigator and is considered an expert in black market adoptions, tried to find the truth behind her adoption for years before she met a probate judge who found that Hicks sold 200 babies to adoptive families in Akron, Ohio. The story is featured on Taken At Birth during a three-part special airing on TLC October 9, 10 and 11 at 9 p.m. EST each night.
Hicks died from leukemia, according to Appalachian History. His grave, however, is a bit of a mystery.
Here’s what you need to know:
Dr. Hicks Has a Mausoleum, But It Is Empty
Dr. Thomas Hicks has a large mausoleum which bares his name at Crest Lawn Cemetery, standing tall above many of the other cemetery plots marked with headstones. However, Hick’s mausoleum does not hold his body, according to Narratively. Hicks is buried beside the mausoleum in a grave marked with a headstone.
During an investigation into the illegal adoptions, authorities opened the mausoleum, thinking it may have contained records pertaining to the adoptions. But officials found it empty. One of the “Hicks Babies,” a name for those who were sold by Hicks, was present when officials opened the mausoleum in their search.
“I was convinced something was in there,” Linda told Narratively. “It is so odd that Hicks himself is not in the mausoleum. He is buried right beside it, but not in it. When they opened it up there was great excitement. But there was nothing in it. There’s nothing there.”
Several of the Hicks babies visited the grave and found it appeared to be vandalized. They theorized he was buried next to the mausoleum, instead of inside of it, so his body was not disturbed, according to the article.
His headstone says:
THOMAS JUGARTHY HICKS, M.D.
OCT. 18, 1888 MARCH 5, 1972
WE LOVED THEE FOR THY ASTUTE MIND
BUT WE LOVED THEE BETTER FOR A HEART
THAT WAS GENTLE AND KIND.
GREEN SOD ABOVE LIE LIGHT, LIE LIGHT
GOOD NIGHT DEAD DAD, GOOD NIGHT GOOD NIGHT
Hicks Babies & Townspeople Are Divided on the Doctor’s Legacy
Dr. Thomas J. Hicks died at age 83 on March 5, 1972, after a battle with leukemia. But those he left behind have differing opinions on his actions.
The illegal adoptions stopped in 1964 when Hicks was caught committing a different crime – abortion. He performed illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade. Hicks gave up his medical license to escape prosecution, according to Appalachian History.
Many in the town told Narratively the black market babies story was sensationalized in the media.
“Hicks was providing a service,” said Ken Rush, director of the Ducktown Basin Museum. “If there was no demand for the service. Hicks would not have been doing it. He wasn’t going around knocking girls up and holding them hostage in his apartment until they delivered their babies so he could sell them.”
Doris Abernathy, who knew Hicks and his wife personally, told the media outlet he was a good, but imperfect man.
“He was a very generous person. He and Mrs. Hicks were so kind to so many people. I never knew anyone so generous. He did a lot for this town,” she said. “I saw him do more good than I think he did harm. I’m not saying he was perfect. I’m saying I saw the man do a lot of good.”
Some of the Hicks Babies were torn about his actions.
“I still don’t know,” Melinda told Narratively. “I owe my life to him, but he has also been the cause of so much pain and suffering. I don’t know. He let loose some real chaos into this world.”
John Stapleton, another one of the Hicks Babies, told the New York Post he did not think that Hicks started in black market adoptions for profit.
“I know abortion was illegal at the time, and then I think he was running into people who couldn’t afford adoptions,” he said. “I think, at first, it was under the table, and then he had seen there was money involved. It turned into a business. [But] I don’t think it initially started that way.”
“In the 40s, 50s, and 60s, a doctor was selling babies from his small town abortion clinic in the heart of McCaysville, Georgia. Doctor Hicks was NO saint and we recognize his dysfunction, the pain he caused many, and have learned to bear it,” she wrote.