In 1950, the Governor of Tennessee called for an investigation of the Tennessee Children's Home black market baby operations, said to have grossed $1 million for Georgia Tann, the superintendent of the local branch of the home. Tann was accused of fraudulently persuading pregnant mothers to relinquish their children. A number of Hollywood celebrities adopted children through the home, namely Joan Crawford, June Allyson, and Dick Powell. During the investigation, local attorneys and justices were found to be part of the scandalous network of adoption that allowed adoptive parents to be out-of-state residents. The story is dramatic and shows southern politics at its worstcongenial, respected public figures running shady deals in the back room. Thousands of children were placed in adopted homes during the agency's operation. Each case is a fascinating story involving the search and reunion of adopted children with their natural families.
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About the Author
Linda Tollett Austin, an attorney in the state of Tennessee, has a PhD in American History with a specialization in the history of the South. Her article about the Tennessee Children's Home Society scandal in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly (1991) won the John Trotwood Moore Award for the best article of the year.
Table of Contents
Background to the Scandal
Matriarch of Juvenile Court: Judge Camille Kelley
The Scandal Unfolds
The Scandal's Aftermath
Congress and the Black Market
The Right to Know: The Adoptee's Dilemma