A Short History – Magnolia Court

By Jim Coffey

In 1947 while visiting the old campus, Dr. Walter Raphael Wiley (BS 1929, BS Med. 1930) and his wife, Monnie Louise McDaniel Wiley learned of the impending move of the University to Magnolia_BloomWinston-Salem. Mrs. Wiley wanted to establish a symbolic bridge between the old and the new campuses. Being an avid gardener and loving the magnolias on the old campus she had her nephew, Robert Earl Williford, collect seeds from the magnolia trees on the old campus. Mr. Williford enlisted the aid of Dr. Budd Smith, professor of biology, and the seeds were mailed to the Wileys in Chesterfield, SC. Mrs. Wiley planted the seeds in a filled-in swimming pool on their property.

In 1956 when construction of the college buildings in Winston-Salem were underway, the magnolia trees in Chesterfield were about 5 feet tall. Since 1947 when the seeds were pl
anted, it had taken three transplantings to get good root systems and have the trees ready to move to the new campus. The administration then housed at Graylyn, graciously accepted Mrs. Wiley’s offer to donate the trees. She and her son, Walter R. Wiley, Jr. balled the trees, put them in the back of a large station wagon, and drove them to Winston-Salem. They left the trees, approximately 20 of them, with the nursery/landscaping department on the new campus where she said “we unloaded them onto a large muddy hill.” The trees were planted a week later. Thus began Magnolia Court behind Reynolda Hall.

Walter R. Wiley, Jr. is an alumnus of Wake Forest University 1964 and married an alumna (1963), Emily Florence Gray Wiley. Mrs. Monnie Wiley’s granddaughter, Moonie Louise Bittle is an alumna BA in 1985 and MA in 1987.

In 1980, 50 years after he graduated from Wake Forest Medical School and 6 years before his death, Dr. Wiley received a sketch of Wait Chapel with the Inscription:

“To Walter R. Wiley, M.D., Donor of the Magnolias, on the 50th anniversary of his graduation from Medical school. J.A. Scales, President, Wake Forest, 1980.”