In Memoriam: William Wiley

William Wiley

Taking a break from work, sitting at the front of his shoe shop on Jackson Avenue, Herbert Wiley fixes his stare somewhere beyond the familiar faces walking by and reminisces about his brother, William Wiley. Such thoughts have been with Herbert a lot lately. His brother, known better as "Bill," died June 30 at his home in Richland, WA, after a short illness. He was 64.

Born on Jackson Avenue, across from the Second Baptist Church, Wiley was one of W.R. and Edna Wiley's five children. He attended Oxford Training School and went on to Tougaloo College, where he received his bachelor of science degree. He received scholarships from Illinois State University and Washington State University, earning a M.S. and Ph.D. in microbiology, respectively. Soon after completing that education, he took a job with Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA, where he stayed for the rest of his life. At the time of his death, he was Vice President for Science and Technology with Battelle's parent company, Battelle Memorial Institute.

Obviously proud of those accomplishments, it is still the warm personal side of his big brother that Herbert Wiley remembers.

"What hits me the most was how fond he was of people. ... And he had a great sense of humor. That sly smile he had, you know he had something up in his mind," said Wiley. "My cousins told me a story about him once, I was too young to remember. He had them all line up and hold hands, and he'd be on one end. He'd stick his hand into a light socket and the one on the other end caught the brunt of everything."

Bill Wiley channeled that industriousness to great effect, dedicating his mind and his spirit to the improvement of his community and his country. He was a regent or trustee of three different colleges; he was honored as Tri-Citian of the Year in the Richland area in 1989; he was instrumental in convincing the federal government to build a $230 million Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory next to his company's facility; and he received the 1994 Black Engineer of the Year Award.

According to Herbert, though, his brother's real passion was education and his family. "He was always encouraging my children to stay in school and do well. He believed that education could help poverty and unemployment and welfare. He thought that that was the only thing that could stop all that, and that was a well-educated country."

"He was a real close brother," Wiley continued. "And he always made it back here twice a year - in the summertime and usually around the holidays. He was supposed to be back here in March, to speak at the Engineering School at the University (of Mississippi), but he got sick before he could come. He said he was going to be back since he couldn't be here. He wanted to help the school. He was trying to get Battelle involved down here."

Wiley said that he heard a recording of his brother's acceptance speech for the Black Engineer Award. "He said that although he was getting this big award, "I will never forget where I come from: Oxford, Mississippi." In a way, he was always a down-home boy."

Wiley is survived by his wife of over forty years, Gus, and his daughter Johari. He also had a son, Melvin, in Atlanta, GA. Funeral services and burial took place in Richland, WA. The ceremony was attended by some 1,000 people, including two university presidents and the governor of Washington.


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