North Carolina Senator Richard Burr Remembers Coach Gaines

April 20, 2005

Statement for the Record
United States Senator Richard Burr
April 19, 2005

In Memory of Clarence Edward "Big House" Gaines

Mr. President, I rise today to mourn the passing of a great North Carolinian. Clarence "Big House" Gaines of Winston-Salem, North Carolina passed away yesterday at the age of 81. He is survived by his lovely wife, Clara, and by his two children, Lisa and Clarence, Jr. All of North Carolina mourns his passing and our thoughts, prayers, and blessings are with his family.

Clarence "Big House" Gaines was an institution in Winston-Salem, where he coached at Winston-Salem State University for 47 years. Coach Gaines won 828 basketball games during his 47 years - fifth best of all time. To understand just how successful a coach he was, Gaines won more games than legends John Wooden and Phog Allen, and finished not too far behind Dean Smith. Perhaps Gaines' most successful season came in 1967 when he coached the Rams to a 31-1 record and an NCAA Division II National Championship.

His was the first predominantly black college team to win an NCAA title and he became the first black coach to be named NCAA Coach of the Year. He went on to win eight Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles and was named the CIAA's Coach of the Year five times. Coach Gaines was named to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1982. Winston-Salem State University honored Clarence Gaines by naming the Athletic Department facility and the school's Hall of Fame for him.

It would be a mistake, however, to merely list his coaching accomplishments. Clarence "Big House" Gaines was more than a coach. He was a community leader, an educator, a mentor and a father figure. His most important achievement was the near 80 percent graduation rate of his student athletes - a legacy that all college coaches should look to emulate.

Coach Gaines taught school up to his retirement from coaching in 1993 and continued to involve himself in the lives of the young people at Winston-Salem State. His marriage and family served as an example to the young people he coached. In his memoirs, published last year, Clarence Gaines wrote that "When these boys, most growing into old men themselves, continue to call their old coach and thank him for helping them get a college degree, it makes me proud to answer to the nickname of Big House." He will not be forgotten in North Carolina or in the hearts and memories of the many young lives he touched.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.