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Richard Wilson Riley Edit Profile

Governor of South Carolina , politician , United States Secretary of Education , member of the South Carolina House of Representatives , member of the South Carolina State Senate

Richard Wilson Riley, American Federal official. Bar: South Carolina. 1960. Recipient District Svc. award Council Chief State School Officers, 1994, James Bryant Conant Award, Education Comm. of the States, 1995, T.H. Bell award for Outstanding Education Advocacy Committee for Education Funding, 1996, District Svc. award American Council on Education, 1998.


Riley, Richard Wilson was born on January 2, 1933 in Greenville, South Carolina, United States. Son of Edward Patterson and Martha Elizabeth (Dixon) Riley.


Bachelor of Arts, Furman U., 1954;Juris Doctor, University of Southern California, 1959.


Riley is the only Democrat to serve two consecutive terms as Governor in the time since the state constitution was amended to allow Governors to serve consecutive terms. Born on January 2, 1933 in Greenville, South Carolina, to Edward P. "Ted" Riley and the former Martha (née Dixon) Riley. Riley served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1963 to 1966.

He served in the South Carolina Senate from 1967 to 1977. Riley was elected governor of South Carolina in 1978. During his first term, the state constitution was amended to allow governors to serve two terms.

Riley was re-elected in 1982, 69-31 percent, over the Republican former journalist W. D. Workman, Jr., of Greenville, and served until 1987. As Governor, Riley presided over the resumption of executions, despite his personal opposition to the death penalty. He named Max Heller, the mayor of Greenville who had lost the 1978 election for the United States House of Representatives from South Carolina's 4th congressional district to Republican Carroll A. Campbell, as the chairman of the South Carolina State Development Board.

In this position, Heller recruited such businesses as Michelin North America and Digital Computer. State business recruitment under Heller surpassed $1 billion. Heller pursued industrial diversification.

During his five years as chairman of the development board, more than 65,000 jobs were created statewide. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Riley to his Cabinet as Secretary of Education. Riley served in this post until Clinton left office in 2001.

Also in 1993, President Clinton approached Riley about an appointment to the United States Supreme Court, which Riley turned down. Clinton ultimately appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg. On June 27, 2007 he endorsed Hillary Clinton for President and served as a Campaign Co-Chair.

In 1999, Furman University, Riley's alma mater, created the Richard W. Riley Institute of Government, Politics and Public Leadership in his honor. In 2008, Walden University renamed its college of education the Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership, in honor of Riley's "commitment to students, his legacy of improving access to higher education, and his focus on diversity in education." Winthrop University also renamed its college of education after Riley in 2000. Riley serves as an Honorary Co-Chair for the The works to lead a global, multidisciplinary effort to strengthen the Rule of Law for the development of communities of opportunity and equity.


  • Riley's gubernatorial accomplishments centered upon improving funding and support for education and industrial recruitment. In 2000, Riley received the Foreign Language Advocacy Award from the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages in recognition of his support for education and especially for his repeated recommendations that all students learn a second language.


He is a member of the Democratic Party. Since then, he has served as a partner in the law firm of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP, and served as a board member of the Albert Shanker Institute.


Married Ann Osteen Yarborough, August 23, 1957. Children: Richard Wilson, Anne Y., Hubert D., Theodore D.

Edward Patterson Riley

Martha Elizabeth (Dixon) Riley

Ann Osteen Yarborough

Richard Wilson Riley

Anne Y. Riley

Hubert D. Riley

Theodore D. Riley