Wilson Camanza Riles was the first African American to be elected to a statewide office in California.
Riles was born on June 27, 1917, near Alexandria, Louisiana. He was orphaned at an early age and was raised by family friends.
After completing high school, Riles attended Northern Arizona State University where he graduated in 1940. He later served in the United States Army Air Force during World War II.
In 1971, Riles was elected California Superintendent of Public Instruction, the first African American elected to statewide office in California and the first African American in the nation to be elected State Superintendent of Schools.
Riles was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal for outstanding achievement by an African American in 1973. Wilson C. Riles Middle School in Roseville, California is named in his honor. Wilson Riles died April 1, 1999.