It was 1975 and Joseph P. Riley became the mayor of Charleston, a position that would highlight the wisdom, leadership and sincerity of a man we’ve come to love dearly. A creative thinker and determined citizen, Joe will always be known for his focus on inspiration, compassion and inclusion.
Inspiration is standard fare for such a leader. Marion Square and Waterfront Park add to the romance of Charleston while our city center has thrived and grown to remarkable heights. His vision for the King Street revitalization project and the addition of a world-class aquarium changed the urban landscape indefinitely.
Utilizing his passion for building relationships, Joe found a way to unite the people of Charleston. His role in Charleston Promise Neighborhood changed the future for many underserved children. His selfless contribution ignited change in the lives of hundreds of children now capable of experiencing success in every portion of their lives.
In 1995, the Jewish community of Charleston, with the mayor, created the holocaust memorial. Today, the memorial stands as a monument to the memories of the atrocities of World War II and will forever speak to the willingness of a community to embrace all cultures, regardless of race or religion. Joe has been a wonderful and caring friend, sharing his wisdom, compassion and thoughtfulness. Joe’s effort towards developing the International African American Museum stands as an accolade to the energy invested in bonding the community in such a way that it can stand the ultimate test. When faced with the most horrible circumstance imaginable, the residents of Charleston responded precisely as expected, with compassion and a sense of unity capable of inspiring a nation. Joe’s first thought was to care for the victims and the families, to embrace those who were suffering and inspire a community to stand together as an example to the world.
Jerry and I chose Charleston as our home in July of 1978. I’m awed as I reflect on the evolution that I have been blessed to witness. As I delight in the beauty and pristine landscape of Charleston, I am challenged to come up with an appropriate message for such a special friend, a man who exemplifies loyalty, humility and selflessness. Perhaps the appropriate message is to simply say, thank you, Joe, for all you do!