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. He began his Scouting career as a volunteer before taking jobs in New Jersey and New York.
According to his file, Gray started drinking on Feb. 2, 1963, at the Scouts’ Mt. Allamuchy camp in Stanhope, N.J., during the annual Klondike Derby, an event in which Scouts pull sleds. That evening, he was discovered playing cards for cash in a cabin with several Explorer Scouts, in violation of camp policy.
Gray, the file said, ‘‘was observed molesting’’ one of those Scouts, 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. The Scouts then met with the Explorer, who confirmed ‘‘the violation.’’ Upon his release from the hospital, Gray was terminated. 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.
That was the norm in many cases recorded in the ‘‘perversion files’’ — a collection of documents the Boy Scouts maintained for years on men the organization suspected of so-called acts of perversion, ranging from gambling and theft to suspicions of sexual deviance.
Files from the years 1959 to the late 1980s came to light last year as a result of a civil lawsuit in Oregon; they showed that men were excluded from the Scouts but rarely prosecuted. Some went on to work in other youth organizations, with boys the same age as the Scouts they allegedly abused.
After his dismissal on Feb. 7, 1963, Gray went home to his family. Carol was 12 years old. Jim was only 7.
Old memories can flicker and fade. But for Carol and Jim, some memories simply aren’t there, an abyss they say protects them from remembering some of the worst of their abuse.
Carol believes hers began when she was 5 years old. 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.’’Continued...