James Forrest Scott was born in Porter, Ohio located in Gallia County, on 29 July 1903. He graduated from Bidwell Porter High School in 1921. Despite being the only black member of his class, he was elected class orator by his peers. An eighteen-year old J. F. Scott entered the Ohio State University College of Education in the fall of 1921 with the idea of becoming a teacher. He later changed career goals and switched to Pre-Med in 1922. In 1925 he was admitted to the Ohio State University Medical School as the only black member of his class. Dr. Scott worked briefly at St. Francis Children's and University Hospitals in Columbus, Ohio.
Dr. Scott learned from relatives that the City of Portsmouth, Ohio, despite having a population of approximately 48,000 citizens, did not have a single black doctor. Seeing this as an excellent opportunity to begin a private practice, Dr. Scott and family came to Portsmouth in 1930. He began practicing from a four room cottage at 1207 12th Street. Later that year he moved his office and home to 1209 12th Street. As both the size of his family and the number of his patients grew, Dr. Scott found it necessary to relocate to a larger home at 1013 12th Street in 1936. This address had previously been the residence and office of Dr. W. H. Lowry, a dentist and professional mentor of Dr. Scott.
During the early 1930s Dr. Scott's fees consisted of $2.00 for an office visit, $3.00 for a house call during the day, and $5.00 for a house call during the night. His fees, however, were not always paid in cash. It was not uncommon that grateful but poor patients would settle their obligations to Dr. Scott with chickens, turkeys, hogs and garden produce. When the 1937 flood hit the Portsmouth area, Dr. Scott, as well as other area doctors, found it sometimes necessary to visit patients marooned by the high water in a boat. Because of his constant activity during the flood, Dr. Scott contacted a toxic infection and was hospitalized. It nearly cost him his life.
Fortunately, he recovered and was able to continue his practice. During World War II, Dr. Scott lost the use of his automobile because of the unavailability of spare parts. Undeterred by this hardship, Dr. Scott continued to serve his patients faithfully, often having to walk long distances to administer a patient too ill to visit his office. After the war ended, Dr. Scott was privileged to purchase one of the first new cars made available to Portsmouth from the Glockner Chevrolet Company.
Dr. Scott was often forced to administer to his patients at their homes, this in part was because Mercy Hospital was totally segregated and the old Portsmouth General Hospital had only two private rooms on the first floor that were made available to black patients. During his career as a General Practitioner, Dr. Scott delivered in excess of 2,000 babies, included among this number are Kathy Battle, Al Oliver, and Larry Hisle. The one childbirth that stands out in the memory of Dr. Scott is that of Mary Jo Ferguson. She was a premature baby that Dr. Scott delivered at home. Her birth weight was only one pound fifteen ounces! Dr. Scott would extract mother's milk from the mother and feed the infant with a medicine dropper. He devised a home-made incubator for the infant using hot water bottles.
In 1954, Dr. Scott was elected Scioto County Coroner. This feat ranked him as the first elected Black coroner in the United States. He served as coroner until 1 January 1975. To date, he still holds the record for longest service as a Scioto County Coroner. During this 20 year tenure circumstances twice made it necessary for Dr. Scott to assume the Office of Sheriff of Scioto County.
Dr. Scott served as Medical Director of the Portsmouth City Health Department for ten years. He is a past President of the Scioto County Crime Clinic. He has served as an Examiner for the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation and for the Metropolitan Insurance Company. Through his position as Medical Director of the Portsmouth City Health Department, Dr. Scott initiated in 1973 a free clinic examination for Sickle Cell Anemia at the Farley Square Community Center. People came from throughout Scioto, Lawrence, and Pike Counties for an examination and the program received exposure on local television. Dr. Scott was a member of the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners, a member of the American Medical Association, a member of the Ohio State University 50 Year Club, and was a Past Master of Trinity Lodge #9 P.H. F&AM.