At the urging of a sports reporter who had watched him play high school football and basketball in Paducah, Ky., Clarence Gaines was urged to enroll at Morgan State. The writer, Buster Lee, drove Gaines to Baltimore. Upon arriving at the school, the two were met by several people from the admissions staff.
"There was a small guy who met us and he said, 'You're the biggest man I've ever seen,' " Gaines recalled. " 'You're as big as a house'."
And that's how the legendary "Bighouse" Gaines got his name, as a 6-foot-3, 265-pound college freshmen. Today Gaines is still a huge man, standing 6-4 and weighing 285 pounds.
As the years went by, the name Clarence was dropped completely. Gaines was either referred to as "Bighouse" or simply "House." He graduated from Morgan State, and later earned his master's degree from Columbia University.
Among his many accomplishments, "Bighouse" is in eight halls of fame: the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (1990), the Bob Douglas Hall of Fame (1985), The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1982), the Winston-Salem State University Hall of Fame (1980), the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame (1978), the CIAA Sports Hall of Fame (1976), the Morgan State University Sports Hall of Fame (1973) and the NAIA Helms Hall of Fame (1968).
"He was definitely an inspiration," said Elizabeth City coach Claudie Mackey, who will go down in history as the person who defeated Gaines' in his final game. "I'm happy we won [last Wednesday], but it's sad knowing he won't be on the sidelines anymore."