Charles W. Briles


Charles W. Briles. B. Lit. The president of the East Central State Normal School of Oklahoma is naturally one of the prominent and influential figures in connection with educational affairs in this commonwealth and such official preferment as is his attests fully his high scholarship and his executive and constructive ability. Coming to the West as a young man recently graduated in the University of North Carolina, Mr. Briles initiated his pedagogic career as a teacher in an obscure rural school in Northern Texas, but not for him was long continued service in such capacity, for his ambition and talent fitted him for broader activities in his chosen profession, and his advancement has been consecutive and well merited. He has done most effective constructive work in his present position, has been a resident of Oklahoma since 1905 and is known and honored as one of the leading forces in educational activities in the state of his adoption, the admirable institution of which he is the executive head being located at Ada, the judicial center of Pontotoc County.
Professor Briles was born in Davidson County, North Carolina, in the year 1873, and is a son of Millard Fillmore Briles and Sallie (Lopp) Briles. His ancestors were of sturdy Holland Dutch stock and his forebears in the agnatic lines settled in North Carolina shortly after the close of the War of the Revolution, the maternal ancestors having become residents of Pennsylvania in 1778. The father of President Briles has been identified with the great basic industry of agriculture from his youth to the present time and he and his wife still reside on the ancestral homestead farm of the Briles family, the place where his great-grandfather settled shortly after the close of the Revolution. On this farm is an historic graveyard which the North Carolina Historical Society believes to contain the bodies of the members of celebrated Croiton Colony that was lost early in the settlement of the state. Excavations have been made under the direction of the historical society and the remains of white persons have been found, this fact lending credibility to the presumption that here was the resting place of the historic lost colony, whose representatives may have succumbed during some epidemic scourge or may have suffered practical obliteration at the hands of Indians.
The early education of Professor Briles was acquired in the public schools of his native state and in the furtherance of his higher academic education he was fortunate in being able to avail himself of the provisions of a college-loan fund established by an honored philanthropist named Deems, of New York City, his own financial resources having been virtually none, so that he was favored in being accorded the reinforcement demanded in the achievement of his ambitious purpose. As a member of the class of 1896 he was graduated in the University of North Carolina, with the degree of Bachelor of Letters, his having been the one hundred and first class to be graduated in that institution.
Immediately after his graduation Professor Briles set forth for the Southwest for the purpose of instituting his work as a teacher. Upon his arrival at Greenwood, Wise County, Texas, he was fortunate in being able to obtain the position of teacher in the only school, in a rural district, for which such provision had not previously been made for that year. During his pedagogic career in the Lone Star State he taught in some of the best schools of Wise, Erath and Grayson counties and was the conductor of three summer normal institutes in Wise County. He was a member of the State Board of School Examiners for one year and a member for one term of the faculty of the summer school of the University of Texas. Coming to Oklahoma in 1905 from the City of Sherman, Texas, where he had served as principal of the high school, Professor Briles was elected superintendent of the public schools of the City of Muskogee, a position which he retained four years and which he resigned in 1909 to become the first president of the newly created East Central State Normal School, this preferment having come to him unsolicited and having been the result of official appreciation of his special eligibility. Prior to leaving Muskogee he had caused to be prepared plans and specifications for the magnificent new high school building in that city and had the satisfaction of seeing the first dirt turned for the erection of the fine building, which was finally completed at a cost of $325,000. In point of continuous service Professor Briles now has the distinction of being the oldest head of a state educational institution in Oklahoma, and in his present responsible office he has found opportunity to bring out his exceptional strength as an organizer and as a progressive executive of admirable constructive and initiative ability. The handsome and well appointed building of the East Central State Normal School was erected in 1909, at a cost of $100,000. It is situated on a beautiful eminence in the eastern part of the thriving little City of Ada and the surrounding gardens and attractive lawn and landscape effects represent the products of the aesthetic ideas and practical skill of Mrs. Briles, who constituted herself the voluntary supervisor of the work at the time of its initiation and to whom is due great credit for the exquisite landscape-gardening that has added so greatly to the attractions of this successful educational institution of Oklahoma.
While the equipment of the East Central Normal School has not as yet, owing to the comparative youth of the institution and the state that supports it, been brought up to the ultimate standard demanded by modern ideals, yet the facilities and appointments are of most excellent order and are constantly being advanced under the able and progressive administration of President Briles. In the year in which the institution initiated its work, in 1909, its enrolment of students numbered only 304 persons, and the growth of the school is indicated by the fact that in 1915 the enrolment is 1,276 persons. Twenty-one teachers are employed, and in 1915 the graduating class numbered fifty-six students, the first class, that of 1910, having had but five members. The work of the institution has been thoroughly systematized under the direction of President Briles, whose earnestness and enthusiasm have been infectious and brought forth the best work on the part of both instructors and students.
Professor Briles is loyal and public-spirited as a citizen, is actively identified with the Ada Commercial Club, is an influential and popular member of the Oklahoma Educational Association, besides holding member ship in the National Educational Association, and his vital interest in the progress of agricultural industry in Oklahoma being indicated by his ownership of a well improved farm in Pontotoc County, the same being devoted principally to the growing of gram and alfalfa. Both he and his wife are zealous members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South and are leaders in the representative social activities of their home community.
In the year 1901 was solemnized the marriage of Professor Briles to Miss Maggie Cox, of Gainesville, Texas, of which state she is a native, her father having been a pioneer farmer in Cooke County, Texas, and sue being related by kinship to the late John H. Reagan, a prominent and influential citizen of the Lone Star State.