Wiley College

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Wiley College
Wiley College seal.png
Motto Achieving Excellence Through Pride and Performance
Established 1873
Type Private, HBCU
Affiliation United Methodist Church
Endowment $50 million
President Haywood L. Strickland
Vice-president Ernest Plata
Provost Glenda F. Carter
Dean Joseph Morale
Vice-presidents Willie Hughey
Phyllis Buford
Nathaniel Hewitt III
Students 1,400
Location Marshall, Texas
Campus Urban, 134 acres (0.5 km2)
Colors Purple and white
Athletics Basketball, Baseball, Volleyball, Track & Field, Intramurals and Cheerleading
Mascot Wiley the Wildcat
Website www.wileyc.edu
Wiley College Logo.jpg
Thirkield Hall at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas
Thomas Cole Winston, Sr., Library at Wiley College
Julius S. Scott, Sr. Chapel at Wiley College
Aaron Baker Science Building at Wiley College
H.B. Pemberton Heritage Center at Wiley College

Wiley College is a four-year, private, historically black, liberal arts college located on the west side of Marshall, Texas. Founded in 1873 by the Methodist Episcopal Church's Bishop Isaac Wiley and certified in 1882 by the Freedman's Aid Society, it is notable as one of the oldest predominantly black colleges west of the Mississippi River.[1][2]

In 2005–2006, on-campus enrollment approached 450, while an off-campus program in Shreveport, Louisiana, for students with some prior college credits who seek to finish a degree, enrolled about 250. As of the fall of 2006, total enrollment was about 750. By fall of 2013, total enrollment was approximately 1400. Wiley is an open admissions college and about 96 percent of students receive some financial aid.[3]

The Wiley staff learned that over a 15-year period, Melvin B. Tolson’s debate teams lost only one of 75 debates. The Wiley Forensic Society competed against historically black colleges, but earned national attention with its debates against the University of Southern California and Harvard University.[1]

U.S. Civil Rights movement[edit]

The Fred Thomas Long Student Union building at Wiley College

Wiley, along with Bishop College, was instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement in Texas. Wiley and Bishop students launched the first sit-ins in Texas in the rotunda of the Old Harrison County Courthouse to protest segregation in public facilities.

James L. Farmer, Jr., son of James L. Farmer, Sr., graduated from Wiley and became one of the "Big Four" of the Civil Rights Movement. Together with Roy Wilkins, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Whitney M. Young Jr., James L. Farmer, Jr. helped organize the first sit-ins and Freedom Rides in the United States.[4][5]

Debate Team[edit]

Tony Scherman's article about the Wiley College debate team for the 1997 Spring issue of American Legacy sparked a renewed interest in its history.[6] The success of the 1935 Wiley College debate team, coached by professor and poet Melvin Tolson, was the subject of a 2005 AMS Pictures documentary, The Great Debaters, The Real Great Debaters of Wiley College, which received heavy play around Texas, followed by 2007 drama movie, The Great Debaters, directed by and starring Denzel Washington. In 1935, the Wiley College debate team defeated the reigning national debate champion, the University of Southern California (depicted as Harvard University in The Great Debaters). In 2007, Denzel Washington announced a donation of US$1 million to Wiley so the team could be re-established.[7][8]

The Wiley College Debate Team, now also known as the Melvin B. Tolson Forensics Society of Wiley College, is under the direction of Christopher Medina. The purpose of The Wiley College Debate Team is not only to compete at a national and regional level, but also to instill a strong work ethic, a drive for academic excellence, and a spirit of ethical competition in its student leaders.[9]

In the 2009–2010 season, the Wiley Debate Team continued to win a plethora of awards and achievements at many of the tournaments for the Texas and Louisiana regions. One of the most historical tournament for the team was the Western Round-Up Swing at McNeese State University on November 20–22, 2009. This was a history-making tournament, as the two-year-old Wiley College Forensic Team won their first overall tournament trophy.[10]

The team was nationally ranked fourth in debate at the 2010 Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament. Seventy-five years ago, the team was denied participation at this tournament because it was reserved for white students. Captain Sean Allen and Member Terrance Muse received first place in Duo Interpretation. Captain Caress Russell received first place in Poetry Interpretation. Novice Members Tanreka Smith & Jendayi Douglas received third place in Novice Parliamentary Debate. Many other rewards of Excellence were rewarded to the team for Student Congress, Extemporaneous Speaking, and other various categories.[11]

Former three-year team captain Sean Allen graduated from Wiley in 2013. He is working as a full-time Coach, giving back to his team.

The team provides the public with honors and reward updates as well as current schedule on their website (http://www.wileyc.edu/wileydebaters/default.asp)


Wiley College teams, nicknamed athletically as the Wildcats, are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC). Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, soccer and track & field; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, soccer, track & field and volleyball.

Notable faculty[edit]

Name Department Notability Reference
Melvin B. Tolson a noted poet and English professor [12]
James L. Farmer, Sr. the first black Texan to earn a PhD, was also a professor at Wiley
Fred T. Long Athletic Director and Head football coach [13]
Harry Long head of biology department and asst. football coach [14]

Notable alumni[edit]

James L. Farmer, Jr.
Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
R. E. Brown 1899 organized the first male quartet, first brass band and first football team at Wiley. He started the first teacher-training school for African Americans in Louisiana. [15]
Lois Towles 1933 internationally renown concert pianist. [16]
Henrietta Bell Wells the first female member of the debate team at historically black Wiley College in Texas – the subject of the 2007 movie, “The Great Debaters” [17]
Thelma Dewitty 1941 first African American to teach in the Seattle Public Schools [18]
James L. Farmer, Jr. 1938 U.S. civil rights leader [19]
Conrad O. Johnson Music educator [20]
Henry Cecil McBay Chemist and college professor
Bill Spiller African-American golfer who challenged the segregationist policies of the PGA [21]
Heman Marion Sweatt Plaintiff in U.S. Supreme Court case, Sweatt v. Painter (1950); helped to found Texas Southern University
Lee Wilder Thomas Prominent African-American businessman in the oil industry
James Wheaton 1945 Actor, director and educator [22]
Jesse J. Williams 1971 Principal Chemist, Theologian
Richard Williams Jazz trumpeter
Floyd Iglehart 1958 NFL
George Kinney 1965 NFL
Mike Lewis[disambiguation needed] 1980 NFL
Lee Thomas[disambiguation needed] 1973 NFL
Kelton Winston 1968 NFL


  1. ^ a b http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aaw/wiley-college-1873
  2. ^ http://www.wileyc.edu/history.asp
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ "James L. Farmer, Jr."
  6. '^ BlackNews.com – American Legacy Magazines Story: The Great Debaters, Turns from Pages to the Big Screen Directed By and Starring Denzel Washington and Produced By Oprah Winfrey
  7. ^ [3]
  8. ^ Wiley College – A Place Where Every Student Can Succeed, Dallas News
  9. ^ Forensic Society Debaters of Wiley College
  10. ^ [4]
  11. ^ [5]
  12. ^ "Marshall Texas Directory". 1946. Retrieved October 19, 2009. 
  13. ^ The Decatur Review Long obituary March 24, 1966 page 13
  14. ^ The Chicago Defender "Wiley Coach Drops Dead in Football Classic" December 15, 1945 pages 1 & 5 and The Chicago Defender "Harry Long Joins Wiley Grid Staff" July 13, 1929 page 9
  15. ^ "Wiley Graduate of 1899 to be Honored with Citation". The Wiley Reporter (Marshall, Texas: Wiley College). May 1953. p. 1. Dr. Brown, the oldest living graduate of Wiley, entered the institution on his sixteenth birthday and finished in the class of 1899 at the age of twenty-four. 
  16. ^ Dogan Teycer, Lucile (May 1953). "Lois Towles in Wiley Concert". The Wiley Reporter (Marshall, Texas: Wiley College). p. 1. Students and friends of Wiley were thrilled by the superb concert of the internationally famous pianist, Lois Towles. 
  17. ^ Martin, Douglas (March 12, 2008). "Henrietta Bell Wells female member of Wiley College debate team". The New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2011. 
  18. ^ Mary T. Henry, Dewitty, Thelma (1912–1977), HistoryLink, November 10, 1998. Accessed online September 30, 2008.
  19. ^ "James Farmer Biography: Greensboro Voices". Retrieved January 4, 2008. 
  20. ^ "Conrad O. Johnson: Hall of Fame profile". Retrieved January 4, 2008. 
  21. ^ [6]
  22. ^ James Wheaton at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]

Media related to Wiley College at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 32°32′12″N 94°22′45″W / 32.53665°N 94.37919°W / 32.53665; -94.37919