Skip to Main Content

OH250 Clarence Gaines Oral History

Clarence Gaines Oral History

Collection Title: Jackson Purchase Oral History Project – Schools and Education

Series Number: OH250

Interviewee: Gaines, Clarence Edward

Interviewer: Peyton, Bill

Date interviewed: August 6, 1979

Processed by: O'Daniel, Hannah

Date processed: February 26, 2014

Description: 2 sound discs (1 hour 10 minutes)

Abstract: Clarence Gaines recalled attending Lincoln Elementary School in Paducah, Kentucky during the 1930s. He describes incidents of African American children being assaulted by white children on the way to school. He mentioned his mother's job at Paducah Cooperage Company where women performed manual labor. He spoke of his parents' support of his athletic pursuits and the coaches at Lincoln High School that influenced him, including Buddy Ferrell, and Tommy Withrow. He described the small Lincoln High School band led by Director L. G. Milligan. He remembered how he learned of Morgan College in Baltimore, Maryland where he received an athletic scholarship. He described how he was recruited to become a coach and math teacher at Winston-Salem Teachers College in Salem, North Carolina. He discussed the athletic program at Winston-Salem, including the men's basketball team's accomplishments, his own awards and honors and the professional athletes Cleo Hill and Earl Monroe that came from the college. He mentioned his experiences holding coaching clinics in England, Germany, and Mexico and taking students to tournaments around the world. Gaines believed that Paducah, had not been as fast to change and develop in terms of social conditions for African Americans compared to other places he lived in or visited, including Salem. He cites disciplinary problems in African American youth which were caused by the integration of schools. He acknowledges his wife, parents, family, early coworkers and bosses and other individuals that influenced his life as keys to his success. His suggests the method for improving the standing of African Americans in society by encouraging a rededication and reestablishment of family in the black community.

Biographical / Historical note: Clarence Edward “Big House” Gaines, Sr. was born on May 21, 1923 in Paducah, Kentucky to Lester and Olivia Gaines. He attended the segregated Lincoln School in Paducah. He was active in high school sports and lettered in football. He graduated high school in 1941 and attended Morgan College in Baltimore, Maryland on an athletic scholarship for basketball, football, and track. After graduating from Morgan College in 1945, he obtained a position as a math teacher and assistant coach at Winston-Salem Teachers College in Salem, North Carolina. In 1950, he married Clara Lucille Berry, a high school Latin teacher. He coached and served as the athletic director at the college for 47 years, and during that time was awarded the CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) Basketball Tournament Outstanding Coach Award eight times, CIAA Basketball Coach of the Year six times, and NCAA Division II College Coach of the Year in 1967. In that year, he coached the basketball team to a national championship to become the first historically Black college team to won a Division II title. His honors also included being inducted into the NAIA Helms Hall of Fame in 1968, CIAA Hall of Fame in 1975, North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1978, and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982. He served as a basketball consultant for the United State Air Force, which led him to travel to Germany, England, and Mexico to teach workshops on coaching basketball. At the time of his retirement in 1993, Mr. Gaines held the record for the second most wins of a NCAA basketball coach, with a record of 828 wins to 446 losses. Gaines died on April 18, 2005 after suffering a stroke.

General information: No user access to original recordings. Use audio user copies, digital derivatives, transcripts, and/or tape indexes. This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code). Permission for reproduction must be requested from Murray State University.

Subject Headings / Descriptors:

Gaines, Clarence Edward, 1923-2005.

Kentucky – Race relations.

Education – Kentucky – Paducah – History.

African Americans – Education – Kentucky.

Segregation in education – Kentucky.

Lincoln High School (Paducah, Ky.)

Morgan State College (Baltimore, Md.)

Winston-Salem State University Rams (Basketball team)

Basketball – North Carolina – Winston-Salem.

Basketball coaches – United States – Biography.