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April 20, 2005

WSSU Family, Community, State and Nation Mourn Death of Clarence "Big House" Gaines

April 20, 2005

Winston-Salem, NC- The Winston-Salem State University family, citizens of Winston-Salem, the state of North Carolina and around the nation mourn the loss of Clarence Edward "Big House" Gaines, the legendary former WSSU men's basketball coach and director of athletics who passed away Monday night, April 18. He was 81 years-old.

A memorial service for Coach Gaines has been scheduled for Friday, April 22, from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. in Kenneth R. Williams Auditorium. The family visitation will take place at Williams Auditorium from 12 noon until 2 p.m. on Friday. The Gaines family respectfully requests that no flowers be sent to the residence or to the funeral home. They ask, instead, that all memorials be made in the form of contributions to the C.E. Gaines Endowment Fund at Winston-Salem State University. Please send your donation to:

Donor Records Office
311 Blair Hall
Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem, NC 27110

In honor of Coach Gaines' memory, all WSSU classes on April 22, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., will be suspended.

"Coach Gaines was an icon, who helped raise the profile of WSSU to national prominence," said WSSU Chancellor Harold L. Martin, Sr. "His contributions and accomplishments in sport were incredible, but the contributions he made to uplift the lives of so many young people during his lifetime, I think, is his greatest legacy."

Gaines' 47-year legacy of contribution to WSSU included 828 wins and eight (8) title Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) conference championships and a national title. Gaines finished his coaching career in 1993 as the second all-time winningest coach, and today is ranked fifth in that category. Gaines produced the first player, Cleo Hill, from an historically black college and university (HBCU) to be drafted in the National Basketball Association¹s (NBA) first round. Under his leadership, Winston-Salem State became the first HBCU to win a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship when his team captured the 1967 college division ( now NCAA Division II ) title. His coaching influence also helped shape new legends such as Earl Monroe, who was selected as one of the NBA¹s 50 top professional players of all time. As befitting his outstanding accomplishments, Gaines also won a place in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA.

However, it was not just his exploits as a coach that marked his greatness. Gaines was very involved with youth throughout Winston-Salem, the state of North Carolina and beyond. He was founder and administrator of the WSSU National Youth Sports Program, a sports and academic enrichment program that still impacts the lives of hundreds of youth each summer. He served as president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He was a co-founder of the Winston-Salem Youth Baseball League. He was also a major proponent and member of Boy Scouts of America, the Forsyth County Heart Association, the old Patterson Avenue YMCA Board of Management, the Rotary Club of Winston-Salem and a host of other civic organizations.





"Coach Gaines was an icon, who helped raise the profile of WSSU to national prominence. His contributions and accomplishments in sport were incredible, but the contributions he made to uplift the lives of so many young people during his lifetime, I think, is his greatest legacy"
Dr. Harold L. Martin, Sr., WSSU Chancellor


Gaines was born in Paducah, KY, May 21, 1923, to the late Lester and Olivia Bolen Gaines. He attended the Paducah public schools. He graduated in 1941 as class salutatorian from Paducah's Lincoln High School. He excelled academically, played basketball, was an All- State football player, and played trumpet in the school band. He enrolled at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD, in 1941, where he received a nickname that would follow him for the rest of his life, ³Big House.² WSSU recently honored Gaines during the Rams' Living Legend Benefit, a gala to raise funds for the Clarence ³Big House² Gaines Endowed Scholarship.

In addition, a first-person account of Gaines life, chronicled in a recent book release titled They Call Me Big House, went on sale in bookstores across the country.

In January 2005, Gaines was honored during a half-time ceremony of the game between the University of Kansas and the University of Kentucky in Rupp arena, before a capacity crowd of more than 24,000. He received the designation of "Kentucky Colonel" from Governor Ernie Fletcher, the highest honor a native son of the State of Kentucky can receive.