On opposite sides of the world, the brother and sister sat transfixed before their computers, reading a stranger’s account of long-ago secrets and deeply buried sins.
The memo was just four pages long, about an incident in 1963 at a Boy Scout camp in New Jersey. A Scout executive had gotten drunk during an overnight outing, then was discovered gambling with a group of boys. But there was more.
The brother and sister read on — about how this man “was observed molesting an Explorer Scout sitting at his side.” About how he was admitted, voluntarily, to a mental hospital. They read about an investigation that determined he had tried to molest another Scout. It found that this man’s “problem,” as the document called it, had apparently existed for decades.
They read, too, about a call from this local Boy Scouts council for “suppression of spread of incident beyond group with knowledge of it.” “We know enough to advise that Brandon P. Gray should never again be registered in any capacity with the Boy Scouts of America,” the memo stated.
In Alabama, her face lit by the glow of her computer monitor, Carol Gray sat back. While shocking in its way, none of what she read had really surprised her. The drinking, the abuse. They were sins she knew well, for they were the sins of her father. And she had been a victim.
Eight thousand miles away, in a village in Africa, Jim Gray shared his sister’s sense of numbness. The memo reaffirmed, in stark black and white, what he had also experienced firsthand. “I’m not crazy,” he thought, feeling some semblance of vindication.
Adults now, these siblings say they suffered years of abuse at the hands of their father. For Carol, the nightmare began long before the Boy Scouts learned of Gray’s proclivities and fired him. But for Jim, the end of his father’s scouting career was the beginning of his own torment.
The story of Brandon Gray is the story of the inaction of the Boy Scouts of America.
For his children, it is the story of what happens when secrecy reigns and what might have been if not for the Boy Scouts’ silence.
The confidential personnel record is dated Feb. 27, 1963. It tells the story — part of the story — of Brandon Gray, 38, married, father of a son and two daughters.
Gray was a district Scout executive in Morristown, N.J., a paid position that put him in charge of several troops.
According to his file, Gray started drinking on Feb. 2, 1963, at the Scouts’ Mt. Allamuchy camp in Stanhope, N.J.
Gray, the file said, “was observed molesting” a Scout, whose age wasn’t mentioned. An adult in the room moved the boy away from Gray, but took no further action “in an effort to avoid a ‘scene,”’ the record stated. Gray continued to drink, grew agitated and attempted to hit someone. Adult Scouts then subdued him and eventually he fell asleep.
By the next morning, Gray’s wife, Ruth, had been contacted and Gray admitted himself to a mental hospital. Upon his release from the hospital, Gray was terminated from Scouting. No records identified by the Associated Press show any charges or convictions for Gray in connection with the incident or any other charges for sex abuse.
Decade of abuse
Brandon Gray’s removal from Boys Scouts was, his son said, the beginning of a decade of sexual abuse. It began soon after that February day in 1963 — Carol was 12, Jim was only 7 — and continued until Jim graduated high school and joined the U.S. Marines Corps.
Carol believes her abuse began when she was 5. Years of psychiatric help and attempts to recover memories haven’t yielded much more. But a fact from her past lingers: “I believe that mine stopped when Dad started abusing my brother.”
At 23, Carol bottomed out when she tried to kill herself. She would find herself drawn to religion.
She now serves as regional director for Catholic Social Services of West Alabama, providing food, counseling and financial assistance to predominantly low-income families.
“Did the sex abuse end up being a part of why this lifestyle ended up being the right one for me?” said Carol, now 62. “I can’t say it wasn’t.”
When the Scouts removed him from their ranks, Brandon Gray took a position as the executive director of the American Cancer Society in Bergen County, N.J. But he would be sued for redirecting checks intended for the society into his own bank account, according to a 1977 account in the New York Times.
Gray later went on to work for a law firm in San Diego, and for a brief time lived in Kansas City, Mo. He left California in 2000 and moved back to New Hampshire. He died in 2004, at the age of 79.
Last October, Carol learned about the “perversion” files from local news accounts. She told Jim. Neither had heard of the Scouts’ files previously. To Jim, they held few surprises, save that the Scouts suspected something was wrong with their father and did enough to protect Scouts, but no one else.
Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith said in a news release to the AP that sex abuse of children in the 1960s was considered a mental illness, and Scouting policy has changed dramatically since then.
“Consistent with the thinking at the time, Scouting worked with medical counselors and this man’s wife to have him checked into a mental care facility and removed him from Scouting,” Smith said. “The abuse of a child is abhorrent and we extend our deepest apologies to victims and their families, including those, like in this case, who were abused outside of the Scouting program.”