Godfather of Auburn High athletics, Bill Gaines, dies at age 95
By Jim Turner


Posted on February 27, 2021 9:54 PM



 

Bill Gaines, who nurtured Auburn athletics, coaches and players for over 70 years, has died at age 95. Visitation to honor him will be Sunday afternoon from 2-6 p.m. at the funeral home in Auburn and from 8 a.m. until the service hour of 11 Monday.

The legend of Billy Gaines grew throughout the years. I labeled him as the Godfather of Auburn Sports long before that small but powerful school and its teams consolidated into Logan County High School in 1982.

Bill began keeping Auburn’s official scorebook at basketball games before his graduation in 1943, about 80 years ago. When he was a student at the old Business University that became a part of Western Kentucky University, he would ride the bus to Auburn on home game nights to perform his official duties. One day he rode with the official for the game, Dero Downing, who later became president of WKU.

He was a part of all five seasons that Auburn reached the regional finals—the state quarterfinalist season under Coach Red Garrison in 1950, two finals berths under Howard Gorrell in 1967 and ’69, in 1977 under Coach Larry Jordan, and the 1982 final under Coach Barry Reed in the last basketball game ever played by a non-consolidated Logan County team.

He also mentored young coaches just starting out after being successful as part of Coach Ed Diddle’s teams at Western. One of them was Ronnie Clark, who later became principal of Franklin-Simpson High School and mayor of Franklin, and Jim Richards, who won a state championship at Glasgow High School and OVC championships as head coach of the WKU Hilltoppers.

Coach Clark has been fond of saying that Bill Gaines on the scorebook and the late Bill Howlett on the clock won more games for Auburn that he did coaching.

When Billy Gaines Day was held at Auburn Baptist Church on Jan. 6, 2013, on his 87th birthday, Ronnie and Joan Clark and Jim and Annette Richards were among those present to honor him. So was former Tiger standout Kenneth ‘Chico’ Harper, who served as Simpson County Judge Executive.

Bill and his trusty sidekick—his wife of 73 years Nancy Vick Gaines—immediately became faithful supporters of the Logan County Cougars upon consolidation. They have also been instrumental in the creation and early success of the Logan County Athletic Foundation’s Hall of Fame.

In one of their last public appearances, Bill and Nancy Gaines were honored by the Hall of Fame Committee for their devotion to Cougar and Tiger sports in January 2020 in front of hundreds of fans from LCHS and Russellville schools.

Although most Logan Countians think of him through athletics, Bill Gaines is known on a much wider basis for his work with some of the county’s most successful industries internationally. He worked in sales and marketing for Auburn Hosiery Mill from 1951-62 before going into sales at Auburn’s Caldwell Lace Leather. In 1985 he became an owner of the gasket division of Caldwell.

The story of Billy Gaines Day at Auburn Baptist Church can be read on The LoJo at http://www.theloganjournal.com/Stories.aspx?Article=features83.

In addition to his wife Nancy, Bill Gaines is survived by his daughters Vicki Miller (Joey) of Franklin and Beverly Karaffa (John) of New Albany, Ind.; his grandchildren, Jeff Neal (Sonya), Beth Davis (Tim), Nick Karaffa (Caitlin) and Matt Karaffa, and seven great-grandchildren, Austin Neal, Brayden Neal, Keaton Neal, Madison Davis, Preston Davis, Braxton Davis and Eliza Karaffa.

 




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