Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Tapley grew up in Houston, Texas, and earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Rice University in 1955. He worked in the architecture offices of George and Abel Pierce, and of Hamilton Brown, and in the landscape architecture office of Fred Buxton & Associates. He became a registered architect in Texas in 1960, and a registered landscape architect in 1970. In 1960, Tapley partnered with Charles Pagan in the firm that would become Charles Tapley & Associates. Encompassing urban planning, sustainability, environmental preservation, and conservation, the firm completed numerous designs throughout Houston and became well-known for its cluster housing in The Woodlands. In the early 1970s, the firm helped develop the 6.3-mile-long Buffalo Bayou Park, which is now 160 acres of expansive views, trails, hikes, riparian plantings, and natural landscapes. The park includes a tributary named after Tapley, which demonstrates the benefits of a wetland habitat in an urban environment. Tapley also designed Tranquillity Park in the heart of downtown Houston. Built in 1979, the park incorporates open space, water, lighting, and a mixture of materials, and honors the first manned landing on the moon. Tapley hired and advised many talented architects throughout Houston and was an adjunct professor at both the University of Houston and Rice University. He was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and he received the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Thomas Jefferson Award from the Houston Chapter of the AIA. He retired in 2011, and he passed away on September 21, 2015, at the age of 84.