Behind the Badge: Scott another of Milan’s ‘hometown heroes’
By Logan Watson
Growing up in Milan, Gray Scott’s childhood was like that of most other small-town kids. You go to school, hang out with your friends and spend Friday nights at the football field. After a while, that kind of routine can feel stifling to a kid, so they strike out on their own to experience as much of the world as they can.
Some of us loaded up a car and drove until the roads ran out. Some of us spent a blurry week on a beach.
Others, like Scott, joined up with the armed forces and shipped off to some of the furthest locales on the globe.
Scott, one of the leading pitchers for the Bulldogs’ baseball team under Coach Joyner, graduated from MHS in 2003. He went on to play ball at Jackson State for a year before earning a full ride to Bethel University on a baseball scholarship.
“I went to Bethel for two years, but college just wasn’t for me,” Scott said. “So I decided to join the military.”
Scott’s father, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, gave him the option of joining up with the Air Force or the Coast Guard.
“This was right after Hurricane Katrina, so I thought I was going to be jumping out of helicopters and pulling people off roofs and out of the ocean. I didn’t get to do that,” Scott laughed. “I handled logistics and finance.”
Scott worked with a multi-mission agency that handled everything from buoy tending and fishery patrols to migrant operations intercepting illegal immigrants from Cuba, as well as support for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
While life in the Coast Guard wasn’t action-movie glamorous, it did give Scott the ability to travel to some of the most historic and beautiful spots on the globe.
“I did a lot of traveling. I spent my first two years in Guam. I’ve been to the island of Iwo Jima, China, Japan, Australia…places I never knew anything about,” said Scott. “I got to see a lot of things that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.”
It was during his stint with the Coast Guard that Scott met the love of his life, Lauren.
“I met Lauren in 2008 while I was home on a 30-day leave. We were engaged thirty days later, and married one year to the day we first met. We had Bentley, our first child, in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2011.”
Every sailor needs an anchor, and Lauren and their families were the tether that eventually brought the couple back to Milan in 2013. Scott began working for the Dyersburg Electric System and settled back into the comforts of home. He soon took a job as a baseball umpire for the Cal Ripken league, partly out of his love for the game, and partly out of his love for children, a trait that the then newly-promoted Police Chief Bobby Sellers took note of right away.
“I saw the way Gray interacted with those kids on the baseball field, and I thought ‘This is the kind of person we need in the Milan Police Department,” said Chief Sellers.
“My experiences in the Coast Guard guided me to law enforcement,” said Scott, “I saw that the police department was hiring a new officer, so I told the Chief I was interested. A week later, he told me to put in my two-week notice.”
“That’s a big part of who I am,” said Scott. “I’ve always loved working with the youth. I would see LEO stories on the news, but the positive ones stood out to me. The officers stopping to play basketball with kids, going to the schools, those always put a smile on my face. These kids see the negative side of law enforcement all the time, so it’s up to us to point them in the right direction and give them a positive outlook.”
Chief Sellers’ vision of making his officers visible and approachable in the community suited Scott’s personality well, and since joining the force in 2014, he has worked to project his positivity back into Milan’s youth. A task, Scott says, is more easily said than done.
“I had a twelve-year-old kid come up to me and ask, ‘If I have a gun and point it at you, what would you do?’ How do you even answer that question? This is what he sees on the news and Facebook, and it’s why we need to develop that trust with kids, no matter their age. I will do anything I can to show a kid that I’m not the bad guy.”
Since joining the Milan Police Department, Scott says Milan’s small-town veil has been lifted from his eyes, which makes it all the more important to be a positive role model.
“When I was a kid, I never thought anything about gangs, but after being gone for eight years and getting into this career, it’s really opened my eyes. Back then, you didn’t worry about going outside with your friends and hearing gunshots. That’s a real concern now. I’ve always wanted to serve a purpose. I want to see this community thrive. I want to show these kids that there is a future for them outside of that culture. There’s a brighter world out there.”