Viles Foundation, Inc.

A 501(c)3 Non Profit Scholarship Foundation founded in 1959

W. Morris Shillinglaw, Jr.

  Matie Viles
Viles Foundation News

New and Renewal applicants: The deadline for applications for the 2024-2025 school year is April 1, 2024. Applications must be postmarked by that date. ~Board of Directors

The Board of Directors has announced that 45 scholarships were awarded in May, 2023. These scholarships totaled $95,600.00.
~Viles Foundation, Inc.

New Mexico Highlands University selected Matie Viles and Ken and Sue Crimmins to co-name the new Student Residence hall on their campus. It is known as the "Matie Viles and Ken and Sue Crimmin Student Residence Hall". ~Viles Foundation, Inc.



1909 - 1963


W. Morris Shillinglaw, Jr. graduated from Robertson High School in Las Vegas, New Mexico. He was over six feet tall, and was a star basketball player. While attending New Mexico Normal University (now NM Highlands University) during his freshman year, he was struck with rheumatoid arthritis. This eventually left him paralyzed in a standing position. His mother, Gertrude, challenged him to use his infirmity as a strength by compensating intellectually. He chose to become a lawyer, borrowing law books and studying them in bed.

With the help of two sponsors (noted New Mexico attorneys), William J. Haydon and J.R. "Dick" Modrall, he studied from books for one year. Modrall advised Morris not to try to take the exam with so little time spent studying. Morris passed the New Mexico State Bar examination in the first attempt in 1937. (This practice was called "reading for the bar" and is no longer allowed.) It was a two day examination. Morris was the only person permitted to use a typewriter. The special permit was granted because his hands were too crippled for him to write. Out of the 47 who took the exam, Morris was one of seven who passed.

Eleanor Wald was Morris` secretary for many years and said the following about him: "To Morris, `The Law` provided the structure within which people can live and act in a way to provide peace and harmony. This was the attitude which he brought to every case. He listened, he counseled, he researched. His logic and sense of humor kept even the most touchy relationships under control, and most often the conclusion of a situation exceeded the client`s expectations. He specialized in land titles, estate planning and probate."

In 1953, Morris served as a member of the New Mexico State Legislature, in the House of Representatives as Chairman of the Committee on Privileges and Elections, and as Chairman of the Committee of Rules and Order of Business. He also served as a member of the Judiciary and Education Committees. He was an active member of the Republican party and once served as the party`s state campaign chairman.

In 1954, he was selected as New Mexico`s Handicapped Person of the Year and was awarded a citation for outstanding service by the President`s Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped.

Morris was appointed to the Supreme Court of the State of New Mexico by Governor Edwin L. Mechem. Of Morris, Governor Mechem stated: "He had an unbeatable spirit and an amazing sense of humor...It is a grueling and griding experience if you attend to business and he did, but he never missed any session and always knew what was going on. He never vacillated and never backed off but he wanted the facts before he made a decision. He had a quick, retentive and analytical mind."

Perhaps Morris` greatest accomplishment was as the `architect` and the developer of the Viles Foundation, Inc., a corporation supported by the Matie R. Viles Trust. Morris was Matie Viles` counselor, trust officer and estate planner after her husband George A. "Skipper" Viles passed away in 1950. Again quoting Eleanor Wald: "Mr. and Mrs. Viles had no children. Matie spent many months with Morris in the process of developing the foundation whose purpose was to `provide educational opportunities for young people of San Miguel and Mora Counties with an emphasis on orphan or fatherless or motherless girls.` Morris and I noted that Matie often gave money to orphaned children in Pecos and surrounding area. We investigated orphanages in the area, but that idea did not interest Matie. Morris knew how Matie wished to live and what she wanted to accomplish. He spent many hours researching the possibilities, eventually created the trust and foundation."

The Viles Foundation, Inc. was incorporated in 1959. In celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Board of Directors are proud to note that over 800 children have received scholarships. Through Morris` insight and legal skill Mrs. Viles was able to set up an organization through which she could use her resources to accomplish the ends she most desired. Both Matie and Morris passed away before seeing the magnitude of their accomplishment.

Morris loved to fish, loved his Gallinas Canyon home near Las Vegas and was a wonderful example to his young niece and nephews, young friends and many others. Everyone who knew him had a special story to tell. His secretaries included Frances Stipe, Eleanor Wald and Marcella Ortega. Each felt a special alliance to him. His death in 1963 as a result of pneumonoa was a shock to all those around him.

The Board of Directors is honored to have had Morris’ sister, Dorothy Shillinglaw Carlson on the board. Currently, Dorothy’s daughter (and Morris’ niece) Robin Carlson serves on the board.

(Most information from Dale B. Gerdeman biography of Morris Shillinglaw)


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