Flagstaff Street To Be Named After African-American Educator And NAU Alum

Nov 20, 2020

The Flagstaff City Council this week chose a new name for a downtown street named after the 19th century naturalist Louis Agassiz, who subscribed to racist ideologies.

Wilson C. Riles during a 1996 interview.
Credit NAU Cline Library Special Collections

It’ll now be known as W.C. Riles Drive, one of dozens of public suggestions made this year. Wilson C. Riles was an African-American educator and the first Black student to attend Northern Arizona University. He received his doctorate, became a teacher and principal, and eventually the California Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Riles focused on providing opportunities for disadvantaged youth during his career. A building on the NAU campus is also named for Riles. The city council is expected to finalize the new street name next Tuesday and the name change will go into effect 30 days later.