Joe Riley touched too many lives to count

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley talks with members of the "The Music Battery" kids percussion group during the "Thanks Joe" celebration held at Brittlebank Park Sunday. (Brad Nettles/Staff) 10/25/15

Everyone has a Joe Riley story.

In 40 years as Charleston’s mayor, he has touched nearly every resident’s life in some way. He hugged them after Hugo, led them on a march to Columbia to take down the Confederate flag, threw out the first pitch at a RiverDogs game they attended, or knocked on their door in one of his 10 campaigns.

But more likely, he showed up at their school commencement or some ribbon-cutting, was sitting near them at a Spoleto concert, or spoke at their civic club meeting. If nothing else, they’ve seen him walking down Broad Street, running through Waterfront Park or cruising Second Sunday on King Street.

The tributes in this special section come from friends, family, political colleagues and community leaders. Some of them offer sweeping assessments of his impact on Charleston and the Lowcountry, others relate personal stories that affected them a great deal. All of them are warm and admiring.

If you take the sum of these recollections, they paint an intimate portrait of a man who is a father, a colleague, a leader and a lifelong public servant. It’s probably not a stretch to say that most of these people — and thousands of other Lowcountry residents — would tell you that Joe Riley is Charleston.

Brian Hicks Author of “The Mayor”