Robert F. Thomas was a humble country doctor who tended to poor folks in East Tennessee, where Dolly Parton was born in her family's one-room cabin on a snowy day in 1946. Like the rest of his patients, the Partons couldn't afford to pay the doctor with money, so they offered him a sack of cornmeal in exchange for delivering baby Dolly.
For her 11th album, My Tennessee Mountain Home, Dolly wrote a tribute to Thomas for his unwavering commitment to the Pittman Center community, even in the face of danger from the very people he was helping. "He was such a wonderful man," the singer recalled in her 2020 book, Songteller. "But he would go up into those mountains with those country people, and a lot of them would hold a gun on him: 'If my wife dies or my daughter dies, you're going to die, too.'" She added: "He was there to save those poor people of the mountains, and he was kind of a savior to us."