Wiley earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Rhode Island in 1953; received a doctorate in organic chemistry from Cornell University in 1957; fulfilled a six-month ROTC obligation as a first lieutenant in the United States Army at Fort Lee, Virginia; and subsequently accepted a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Los Angeles. Wiley taught for two years at the University of California, Berkeley, whereupon he took a teaching position at Syracuse University in 1960. That same year, he founded the Syracuse chapter of Congress of Racial Equality. He later founded the National Welfare Rights Organization.
He was named on the master list of Nixon political opponents.
In August 1973, Wiley was reported missing and presumed drowned while sailing in Chesapeake Bay. The George Wiley Award in Organic Chemistry at Syracuse is named in his honor.
- (August 10, 1973). Dr. George Wiley Feared Drowned; Civil Rights Leader, 42, Who Headed Welfare Group, Is Sought Off Maryland. New York Times
- Nick Kotz & Mary Lynn Kotz, A Passion for Equality: George Wiley and the Movement (New York: W.W. Norton, 1977). ISBN 0-393-07517-6