Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
By the force of his character and his intellect, Joe Riley has formed and forged the city of Charleston into a work of civic art; a grand mosaic of tangible and intangible parts. Its most beautiful parts are accessible to all citizens. Its water’s edge and its public spaces belong to us all, and are enjoyed by us all, because of his commitment to inclusiveness.
The physical evidence of Joe’s leadership is evident: from Charleston Place and revitalized King Street, to Spoleto and the Waterfront Park, the S.C. Aquarium, “The Joe”; the renovated Gaillard Center and, although still on the drawing boards but surely to succeed, the International African American Museum.
Transcending physical accomplishments, Joe Riley will be remembered for the manner and force of his personality; his warm and positive attitude; his calm and confident leadership in times of crisis; his inclusive style of leadership; his dedication to the people he was sworn to serve; his commitment to racial equality. He has set the moral tone of a community.
Joe leaves a legacy of principled leadership based upon clear moral precepts: always do what is right; always strive for excellence; always care for those in need; always be vigilant; always be loyal; never give up or give in when you believe you are right. May his successors have the wisdom to honor these same precepts.
Joe Riley’s shadow looms large. He is the real thing. It is my honor to call him my best friend.