Dr. Robert F. Thomas

Album: My Tennessee Mountain Home (1973)

Songfacts®:

  • 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."
  • Thomas was also a Methodist preacher who served overseas as a missionary until his son contracted a serious disease and he returned to the US. The church sent him to the Smoky Mountains, where he pastored a church and opened a small clinic in Pittman Center.
  • In Sevier County, where Pittman Center is located, there's also a charity fund named in honor of Dr. Thomas, which Dolly supports. Thomas died in 1980 at age 89.
  • The concept album, featuring the songs "My Tennessee Mountain Home" and "Daddy's Working Boots," tells the story of Dolly's journey from the cradle to Music Row. It peaked at #19 on the Country Albums chart.

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