David Harrison had known Hollis Gainey for years before he found out the former Lubbock ISD assistant athletic director had a shining secret.
In the late 1950s at the University of Texas, Gainey ran on relay teams that set three track and field world records.
“Hollis was the most humble, unassuming man I’ve ever known,” Harrison said. “It took me a year to get that information. He would not talk about himself and all his accomplishments. Of course, I worked with him forever as a coach, and none of this came out to me.
“It took a long time to get anything out of him about his career, and then find out he was a world record-setter at UT.”
Gainey died March 9 in Colorado City, the hometown to which he’d returned. He was 81.
Gainey had a long association with the Lubbock ISD — from being a Jimmie Keeling assistant on Estacado’s trailblazing 1968 football state champions to coaching the Matadors to a track and field state title in 1970 to serving as an assistant athletic director for 24 years.
“He was one the most natural good people I think I’ve ever met,” former LISD athletic director Pete Ragus said. “Most of us have to work at being good, but he was just a really, really special good person.”
Bob Reily, who lived across the street from Gainey and was a longtime fishing and hunting buddy, said Gainey suffered a light stroke about a year ago and had hip surgery a few months ago. He suffered another, worse stroke during recovery.
“He was a very shy and modest person,” Reily said. “He had many outstanding athletic accomplishments, and he never mentioned any of them. He was an all-state football player. In those days, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram picked an all-classifications all-state team, and he was on it.”
Reily moved to Colorado City in 1953, and in 1954 the Wolves went 11-1 with Gainey as a star running back.
“He got out of his shyness a lot,” Reily said, “but was always very modest. Of course, his teammates loved him, because he was the star of the football team and you’d never know it. He was so modest about it and unassuming.”
In 1957 at UT, Gainey ran third leg on the Longhorns’ 440-yard relay team that ran a world-record time of 39.9. They broke it again two years later, running 39.6.
Gainey set a Southwest Conference record in the 100-yard dash, going 9.4 seconds, and finished sixth in the 100 and the 200 at the 1957 NCAA championships.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, Wally Wilson, Eddie Southern, Gainey and Bobby Whilden ran the record-breaking 440 relay time at 1957 Kansas Relays. Then they broke the 880-yard relay world record in 1:22.7.
Gainey coached at Estacado from its opening in 1967 until shortly after he led the Matadors to the Class 3A state track and field championship in 1970. He followed Keeling to Andrews, but returned in the mid-1970s for a long career in the Lubbock ISD athletic administration.
Ragus said Gainey’s assistant AD job came about after Title IX and he was charged with overseeing girls sports.
“It was a really tough job,” Ragus said, “and he did a fantastic job with it, getting the girls program going and finding people that would work with the girls. Finding girls coaches was not easy, because everybody was trying to find them and there weren’t people that had worked with all those sports with girls. He did a great job getting it started and implementing it.”
Gainey announced his retirement in 1999 and left in 2000, said Harrison, a former Monterey track coach who became assistant AD for facilities, operations and middle school sports.
“He was very intelligent, very likable, very plain as far as getting things done very simply,” Harrison said. “He wanted to do things simply and easily and wanted everybody to be happy.”
Estacado opened in 1967 and won a football state title in 1968, its first year of varsity competition. Gainey was an assistant on that team. Then-Mats player David Moody said the staff with Keeling and Gainey “did a wonderful job” in a time of difficult race relations.
“We didn’t see color. We saw people,” said Moody, now a Lubbock High assistant. “Coach Keeling and coach Gainey taught us about life. They taught us about character. Both of them were just like dads to a lot of us.”
Gainey was inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame in 1998 and was inducted into UT’s athletic hall of honor in 2007.
Texas Tech track and field coach Wes Kittley called Gainey “probably one of the first West Texas guys to be put in the spotlight in the world for West Texas track and field.” Kittley noted that Gainey came along in a golden age for Texas track. Abilene Christian also had world record relay teams led by Bobby Morrow, who won three gold medals at the 1956 Olympics.
Like others, Kittley said he learned of Gainey’s part in setting world records secondhand, then researched it.
“He never bragged to me about what he did,” Kittley said. “You would never know it. He had that humble spirit.”
Kittley came from Abilene Christian to Tech 2000 and said Gainey was an ally.
“He always was encouraging me and proud of me,” Kittley said, “because I was a West Texas guy. When I came to Texas Tech, he was so thrilled. He was a Longhorn, but he was glad that Texas Tech was getting somebody that cared about track.”