A black man who became widely known for his efforts to overturn a South Carolina law that barred him from adopting his white wife's children was arrested today and charged with arson against his own house.

The Rock Hill, S.C., police department and the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) filed warrants charging Clarence Evans, 38, with arson and "the burning of personal property with intent to defraud an insurer."

SLED spokesman Hugh Munn said Evans had been a suspect in the case since the early morning fire on Oct. 23 that destroyed the family's rented home in a predominantly black section of Rock Hill.

Evans and his wife of two years, Mary, 31, claimed the fire probably had been set by the same people who regularly telephone the family with racial slurs and threats.

The Evanses said the threatening calls increased after newspaper and television accounts appeared detailing Evans' fight to overturn the 70-year-old South Carolina law barring him from adopting his wife's five children from a previous marriage.

Evans, who is disabled with a heart condition, took out a $20,000 fire insurance policy on the contents of the house two days before the fire, because, he said, a caller had warned of "a Halloween fire."