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Wilson Riles, a three-term California state schools chief and the state's first African-American to be elected to statewide office, died April 4 following complications from pneumonia. He was 81.

Mr. Riles was elected to the nonpartisan post of state superintendent of public instruction in 1970. The former classroom teacher and school administrator was re-elected in 1974 and 1978.

He oversaw the state's K-12 public school system during a time of rapid growth in enrollment and spending. During his tenure, he implemented early-childhood-education programs, opposed mandatory busing for desegregation, and championed tougher tests.

--Robert C. Johnston

Vol. 18, Issue 31, Page 4

Published in Print: April 14, 1999, as Milestones
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