Wiley College

Wiley College
Motto Achieving Excellence Through Pride and Performance
Type Private liberal arts college
Established 1873
Religious affiliation
United Methodist Church
Endowment $27 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 Rural, 134 acres (0.5 km2)
Colors Purple and white
Athletics NAIARRAC
Sports 10 varsity sports teams
Nickname Wildcats
Mascot Wiley the Wildcat
Affiliations UNCF
Website www.wileyc.edu

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.[2][3]

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 1,400.

Wiley is an open admissions college and about 96 percent of students receive some financial aid.[4]

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.[2]


Wiley College offer bachelor's degrees through four academic divisions.[5]

Civil Rights movement

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.[6][7]

Debate team

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.[8] 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 dramatic 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.[9][10]

The Wiley College Debate Team, now also known as the Melvin B. Tolson/Denzel Washington 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.[11]

The Wiley College debate team of 2014 earned the mantle, “The Great Debaters,” the name was bestowed on the team by director-actor Denzel Washington in a movie by the same name which premiered in 2008. The 23-person team met the best speakers and debaters from 80 colleges and universities sent by 26 states to the Pi Kappa Delta Comprehensive National Tournament staged in Indianapolis, Indiana. This was the largest Pi Kappa Delta Tournament in their 101-year history. The Great Debaters came away in first place. When the winning totals from the debates and individual events – 2000 entries in all – Wiley College was named champion.

The victory holds special meaning for the Historically Black College. Not only was it the first national speech and debate title won by an HBCU, another moral victory was won. During Melvin B. Tolson's tenure, Wiley College had not been permitted to join the national forensics fraternity, Pi Kappa Delta, or to participate in its national convention or national championship.


Wiley College teams, nicknamed 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. Women's sports include basketball, cross country, soccer, track & field, volleyball, and cheerleading. Wiley the Wildcat is the mascot.

Notable faculty

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

Notable alumni

James L. Farmer, Jr.
Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
R. E. Brown 1899 Organized the first male quartet, first brass band, first football team at Wiley. Later started the first teacher-training school for African Americans in Louisiana. [15]
Lois Towles 1933 Internationally renowned concert pianist. [16]
Henrietta Bell Wells First female member of the debate team 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, college professor
Oliver Randolph 1904 New Jersey lawyer, politician, and civil rights advocate [21]
Bill Spiller African-American golfer who challenged the segregationist policies of the PGA [22]
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, educator [23]
Jesse J. Williams 1971 Principal chemist, theologian
Richard Williams Jazz trumpeter
Floyd Iglehart 1958 NFL
George Kinney 1965 NFL
Mike Lewis 1980 NFL
C. O. Simpkins, Sr. Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1992-1996; retired Shreveport dentist [24]
Lee Thomas 1973 NFL
Kelton Winston 1968 NFL
Daryl Joy Walters 2014 Politician [25]


  1. "Members of CIC: Texas". cic.edu.
  2. 1 2 "Wiley College (1873- ) - The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed". Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  3. http://www.wileyc.edu/history.asp
  4. http://www.wileyc.edu/academics-office
  5. "James Farmer Memorial Page". Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  6. BlackNews.com – American Legacy Magazine's Story: The Great Debaters, Turns from Pages to the Big Screen Directed By and Starring Denzel Washington and Produced By Oprah Winfrey
  7. "Wiley College". Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  8. Wiley College – A Place Where Every Student Can Succeed, Dallas News
  9. Forensic Society Debaters of Wiley College
  10. "Marshall Texas Directory". 1946. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  11. The Decatur Review Long obituary March 24, 1966 page 13
  12. 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
  13. "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.
  14. 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.
  15. Martin, Douglas (March 12, 2008). "Henrietta Bell Wells female member of Wiley College debate team". The New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
  16. Mary T. Henry, Dewitty, Thelma (1912–1977), HistoryLink, November 10, 1998. Accessed online September 30, 2008.
  17. "James Farmer Biography: Greensboro Voices". Retrieved January 4, 2008.
  18. "Conrad O. Johnson: Hall of Fame profile". Retrieved January 4, 2008.
  19. "Oliver Randolph". The New York Times. 1951-09-03. p. 13. Retrieved 2016-09-21.
  20. "One man's mission". ESPN.com. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  21. James Wheaton at the Internet Movie Database
  22. "C. O. Simpkins, Sr.: Civil Rights Champion". cosimpkins.com. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  23. http://www.daryljoywalters.com

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

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