Education | Politics
The Christian Science Monitor said that many Americans regard Richard W. Riley as "one of the great statesmen of education in this (20th) century." David Broder, columnist for The Washington Post, called him one of the "most decent and honorable people in public life." And when Mr. Riley was Governor, he was so popular that the people amended the South Carolina Constitution to enable him to run for a second term.
Wherever he goes, Richard Wilson Riley--former U. S. Secretary of Education and former Governor of South Carolina--wins respect for his integrity, principled leadership, commitment to children, and passion for education.
After winning national recognition for his successful education improvements in South Carolina during the 1980s, Mr. Riley was chosen by President Clinton in December 1992 to serve in his Cabinet as the nation's chief education officer. During the President's first term, Secretary Riley helped launch historic initiatives to raise academic standards; improve instruction for the poor and disadvantaged; expand grant and loan programs to help more Americans go to college; prepare young people for the world of work; and improve teaching. He also created the Partnership for Family Involvement in Education, which today includes more than 8,000 groups.
Richard Riley gets things done by reaching out to all citizens. He prefers partnership to partisanship. Of his quiet, self-effacing style, the National Journal wrote, "He doesn't grab headlines or clamor for credit...But, inevitably, Riley reaches his goal."
Mr. Riley was so successful that, after the 1996 election, President Clinton asked him to continue leading his national crusade for excellence in education. During the second term, he helped win a historic Federal Communications Commission ruling to give schools and libraries deep discounts for Internet access and telecommunications services (the E-rate) and major improvements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. He gained increased Federal support to help all children master the basics of reading and math; make schools safer; reduce class size in grades 1-3 by hiring 100,000 more quality teachers; modernize and build new schools to meet record-breaking student enrollments; help students learn to use computers; expand after-school programs; foster college preparation and access for underprivileged students; make post-secondary education more affordable; and promote lifelong learning. He also focused national attention on the need for people of all ages in America to learn more than one language and for increased international education exchanges in the United States and abroad in order to take advantage of the opportunities presented in the global society of the 21st Century.
Since leaving his national post in January 2001, Richard Riley has rejoined the law firm of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough with more than 300 attorneys in offices throughout South Carolina and North Carolina, as well as in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
Mr. Riley also has been appointed Distinguished Professor and Trustee at his alma mater, Furman University, and serves as Advisory Board Chair of the Richard W. Riley Institute of Government, Politics and Public Leadership there. Additionally, he serves on the boards of South Carolina's University Center in Greenville and Winthrop University, where the School of Education is named in his honor. He has been named Distinguished Professor at the University of South Carolina and Distinguished Senior Fellow at NAFSA: Association of International Educators. He also speaks, provides leadership and serves in an advisory and collaborative capacity with many other entities to promote education improvement in the United States and abroad.
Richard Riley was born in Greenville County, South Carolina. He graduated cum laude from Furman University in 1954 and then served as an officer aboard a U.S. Navy minesweeper. In 1959, he received a law degree from the University of South Carolina. He served as a South Carolina state representative and state senator from 1963-1977, was elected Governor in 1978 and reelected in 1982.