Genetic Genealogy is an exciting new frontier.
Most adoptees have questions. Few have questions like those who began life in the Hicks Community Clinic. The case of the Hicks Clinic babies is a powerful example of the information that can be discovered with the use of genetic genealogy technology.
Taken at birth – words to strike fear into the heart of any mother. That is the title of a 3-part series on TLC that aired on Oct 9 -11, 2019. The series is about a small community that straddles the Georgia-Tennessee state line and the dark history that gave the community infamy.
The town of McCaysville, Georgia was the scene of a secret black-market baby ring that operated for decades out of the clinic of a doctor named, Thomas Hicks, Sr. The town seems like any other quaint small town however, nothing about the small town is quite what it seems on the surface.
Dr. Thomas Hicks, Sr. was a respected family man and community doctor, he was a fine upstanding citizen in his community. Under the polished surface many layers of deceit festered.
It was a poorly kept secret in the region that the doctor ran an illegal abortion clinic, drawing desperate women from all over the local region for his services. It was a poorly kept secret in town that the “good” doc was having affairs and fathering illegitimate children. A better kept secret was the fact that the doctor was running a black-market baby adoption ring, trading babies for cash in shady back door deals.
More than 200 individuals have been identified that passed through the back door of the Hicks Clinic.
No records have ever been found in the quest to learn the truth behind the Hicks Clinic adoptions. If any were kept, they have been either destroyed or have yet to be found. Extraordinary measures have been gone to in the search to locate any of Dr. Hicks records only to turn up nothing. It seems as if from beyond the grave, decades later, some of the townspeople of McCaysville, Georgia are more interested in the cover up than the truth. Even today Dr. Thomas Hicks Sr. is locally regarded as a man who did bad things with good intentions.
The Hicks babies are all grown now and most of the biological parents who have been identified have died taking their secrets with them. Of some of the adoptees who have been reunited with their biological families, the reactions have been mixed. At least one adoptee was intended to be aborted and Dr. Hicks convinced the young woman to carry her child and put it up for adoption. Even with those truths revealed it still feels like there is more left unsaid to that story than has been revealed. Dr. Hicks plays the complicated part of both villain and hero in many of the babies of the Hicks clinic.
Nothing about the case is cut and dry even decades after the Hicks clinic closed.
Questions far outreach the answers and the web seems to grow ever larger. Powerful men in the town, the doctor, the mayor, and the chief of police all had knowledge of what was going on and indeed were involved in using the clinic to cover up their own private misdeeds in some cases.
How did the doctor eventually get shut down after decades running his abortion clinic? What led to him getting caught after so long in business? How did he manage to escape jail time for his illegal abortion ring? Have any of the Hicks babies DNA matched each other?
I have so many questions about this case. I cannot fathom the depths of frustration that is felt by the individuals who are trying to navigate this in their own lives.
There is no documentation about what happened behind the doors of the clinic.
Few living individuals who know what was going on at the time and of those…fewer are willing to speak. Even from the grave the “good” doc manages to keep a town quiet about some of its darker secrets
To really understand the case in perspective requires a broader view. Abortion was illegal. Women died in unsafe back alley abortions. Dr. Hicks at least as far as anyone can tell took good care of the women in his charge if not making the best medical decisions regarding the children they birthed. There were not safety net programs to support unwed mothers. Society held a negative view of unwed females. These were often desperate young women.
Was Dr. Hicks a villain or a hero? On some level perhaps he was both.
The doctor lost his medical license after his illegal abortion clinic was closed by the authorities in the 1960’s. At that time the black-market baby ring in McCaysville, Georgia ceased to operate. It would be decades more before anyone even realized what was going on at the back door of the clinic.