Joseph P. Riley, Jr.
60th Mayor of Charleston
Assumed office
December 15, 1975
Preceded byArthur B. Schirmer, Jr.
Member of the
South Carolina House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born (1943-06-19) June 19, 1943 (age 80)
Charleston, South Carolina
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materThe Citadel
University of South Carolina School of Law

Joseph P. Riley, Jr. (born June 19, 1943) is an American politician who is the long-time Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina. He is the one of the longest serving mayors that is still living and in office,[1] having served 10 terms starting on December 15, 1975.[2][3]


He was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and graduated from The Citadel in 1964, and the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1967. A member of the Democratic Party, he served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1968 to 1974. First elected Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina in December 1975, he is currently serving his tenth term in office.

Riley's first major project was pushing the redevelopment of the central business district. City Council approved $12,500 for a feasability study for a redevelopment plan on June 7, 1977. A Washington, D.C. consulting group recommended that the city should build a large hotel, commercial, and conference center, and the largely vacant 5-acre lot between King, Meeting, Hasell, and Market Streets was a prime candidate. In mid-1977, developer Theodore Gould made a proposal for a $40 million project to be known as the "Charleston Center." The conceptual plans calls for a 14-story building with a 700 car parking garage, and preservationists came out strongly against the plans. On January 25, 1978, the first of several lawsuits was filed in an effort to scale back the massive size of the project. Work began in 1981 after several legal challenges. On May 16, 1983, revised plans were released showing the building as it would eventually appear: eight stories in the center but only four around the perimeter. When Gould was unable to secure financing, the city replaced him with new backers and renamed the project "Charleston Place." The center opened on September 2, 1986. Its final cost was approximately $75 million.[4]

In 1989, Riley served on the selection committee for the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence.[5]

Riley ran for Governor of South Carolina in 1994, finishing second in the Democratic primary behind Lieutenant Governor Nick Theodore.

Riley is a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, a bi-partisan group with a stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets." The Coalition is co-chaired by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Riley served as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors for 1986–1987. He currently serves on the USCM Executive Committee. He is a founder of the Mayors' Institute on City Design.[6]

Riley is on the Board of Selectors of Jefferson Awards for Public Service.[7]

Riley was elected to his seventh term on November 2, 1999 with 71% of the vote; city councilman Maurice Washington received 29%.[8]

When the Confederate battle flag was flown above the South Carolina statehouse, Riley organized a five-day protest walk from Charleston to Columbia to promote its removal.[9] The march began on April 2, 2000, with about 600 marchers; the crowd dropped dramatically during the week but rebounded to about 400 marchers before a protest held on the statehouse grounds on April 6, 2000.[10]

Riley won his eighth term as mayor in November 2003 in the city's first nonpartisan election with 57% of the vote against other candidates including Jimmy Bailey (32%) and Kwadjo Campbell (9%).[11]

Following a Sofa Super Store fire, which killed nine Charleston firemen, Riley proposed the city's purchase of the location of the fire and its development as a passive park.[12]

Awards and recognition

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  1. ^ Kim Severson (November 5, 2011). "Term No. 10? Why Not, a Mayor Asks". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-06. As far as people who keep track of these things can tell, Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. of Charleston, S.C., has been in office longer than any other sitting American city mayor. ((cite news)): Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  2. ^ "City of Charleston Website - Biography on Riley Jr".
  3. ^ Counts, Henry (December 16, 1975). "Riley Promises Unification for City". The News and Courier. 153 (250). Charleston, SC: 1. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  4. ^ McDermott, John P. (September 1, 1996). "Charleston Place turns 10". Charleston Post & Courier. pp. 1A. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  5. ^ "Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence". Selection Committees. Bruner Foundation. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  6. ^ "Mayors' Institute on City Design".
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Riley re-elected Charleston mayor". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. November 3, 1999. pp. C3. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  9. ^ Lolordo, Ann (April 2, 2000). "Mayor makes strides in Confederate flag dispute". Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon). pp. 8A. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  10. ^ Davenport, Jim (April 7, 2000). "March ends with calls to haul down Confederate flag". Milwaulkee Journal Sentinel. pp. 8A. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  11. ^ "Riley Wins Eighth Term". Charleston Post & Courier. November 5, 2003. pp. 1A. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  12. ^ Smith, Bruce (June 28, 2007). "Mayor: City plans park on land where 9 firefighters died". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. pp. C2. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  13. ^ "Urban Coalition Will Give Award To Mayor Riley". Charleston News & Courier. May 4, 1983. pp. 10-A. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  14. ^ Williams, Barbara S. (February 11, 1990). "Riley closes door but expects a friend to run". Charleston News & Courier. pp. 12-A. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  15. ^ "Municipal magazine honors Mayor Riley". Charleston Post & Courier. December 24, 1991. pp. 3B. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  16. ^ "Don't Make a Federalist Case Out of It". Charleston Post & Courier. April 13, 2001. pp. B3. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  17. ^ Behre, Robert (April 26, 1997). "Riley honored today by Florida institute". Charleston Post & Courier. pp. 3-B. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  18. ^ Behre, Robert (June 18, 2000). "Mayors honor Riley". Charleston Post & Courier. pp. 1-B. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  19. ^ "Riley wins award for urban vision". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. July 8, 2000. pp. B3. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  20. ^ "Charleston Mayor Joe Riley among 25 'mayors to watch'". The Item (Sumter, South Carolina). November 4, 1996. pp. 6A. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  21. ^ White House Announces 2009 National Medal of Arts Recipients