Riles was also the first Black student at Northern Arizona University, then named Arizona State Teachers College at Flagstaff, and after a stint in the Army Air Force during World War II, he got his master’s degree at NAU and became a teacher and the principal at the Dunbar School.
Support Local Journalism
Your membership makes our reporting possible.
After he left Flagstaff, Riles was elected as the California state superintendent of public instruction, a position he held for 12 years.
Today, the Dunbar School building is known as the Murdoch Community Center and is home to the Southside Neighborhood Association. The building also sits just next to Agassiz Street, which runs through the Southside neighborhood both north and south of Butler Avenue as well as north of the train tracks.
The proposal to change the street’s name came in June amid a national reckoning on race and police violence following the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis.
Just this week, the Phoenix City Council voted unanimously to rename two street names considered to be racist, switching Robert E. Lee Street to Desert Cactus Street and Squaw Peak Drive to Piestewa Peak Drive.
After the Flagstaff City Council announced its intention to change the street’s name over the summer and asked for community suggestions, city staff received more than 50 suggestions to replace Agassiz, said Sarah Langley, city management analyst.