north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     Calvin Henderson Wiley (1819-1887), North Carolina’s first school superintendent, accepted an educational system in great disrepair and restored the people’s faith in public instruction under the banner of educational reform.

     Born to Guilford County’s David L. and Anne Woodburn Wiley on February 3, 1818, Calvin Wiley attended the Caldwell Institute as a child. An excellent student, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at age twenty-one. Despite his formal training and accreditation in law, Wiley moved to Oxford, North Carolina, in 1841, and after editing a local paper for two years, left law, journalism, and Oxford to return to Guilford County in 1843. Once there, he dabbled in writing, an endeavor which produced six novels within a span of twenty years. Meanwhile, Wiley entered the political realm, representing Guilford County and, in 1852, was instrumental in passing legislation that created a state superintendent who oversaw all regular or “common” schools in the state. Leaving the General Assembly later that year, Wiley was elected in 1853 as North Carolina’s first superintendent, an office he held until April 1865.

     Throughout his tenure as head of public instruction, Wiley worked to reform education in the state. In addition to financing a myriad of speaking engagements to promote education around the state, Wiley founded several clinics that taught, examined, and licensed teachers within North Carolina. In 1851 he published, at his own expense, the North Carolina Reader, which quickly became the standard textbook statewide. Wiley and his staff were able to raise North Carolina’s educational system to what many considered to be the most efficient in the South within seven years of taking office. He lived with his wife, Mittie, in Salem until his death on January 11, 1887. Several elementary, middle, and high schools around the state are named in his honor.

William S. Powell, ed.,Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, VI, 196-197—sketch by Barbara M. Parramore, available online at:
Dumas Malone, ed., Dictionary of American Biography, vol. XIX, 213—sketch by Edgar W. Knight
Calvin D. Jarrett, “Calvin H. Wiley: Southern Education Leader,” Peabody Journal of Education, vol. 41, no. 5 (March 1994): 276-288
C. H. Wiley, North Carolina Reader (1851)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

Calvin H. Wiley

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources