Joseph P. Riley


Honorable Joseph P. Riley, Jr

Fellow / 1997 Seaside Prize Winner

The Hon. Joseph P. Riley Jr. was first elected mayor of Charleston, S.C., in December 1975 and served ten terms. Riley led a city government with an impressive record of innovation in public safety, housing, arts and culture, children’s issues, the creation of park and other public spaces, and economic revitalization and development. Charleston is recognized as one of the most livable and progressive cities in the United States.

Riley has held numerous national leadership positions and received many awards and distinctions. He was president of the U. S. Conference of Mayors from 1986-87 and currently serves on its Executive Committee. He served as chairman of the Cities Task Force of the Southern Growth Policies Board and as president of the National Association of Democratic Mayors (1988-92). He was given the Outstanding Mayors Award by the National Urban Coalition, the Distinguished Citizen Award by the National Association of Realtors, and named the 1991 Municipal Leader of the Year by American City & County. Riley has received the Order of the Palmetto, been named South Carolinian of the Year, and given the 1982 Verner Award by the South Carolina Arts Commission. He received many commendations for his leadership of the Charleston community before, during and after Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

In 2000, he was awarded the first President's Award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors and was honored as the first recipient of the Urban Land Institute J. C. Nichols Prize for Visionary Urban Development. In February 2002, he was given the Keystone Award by the American Architectural Foundation. He received the Scenic America Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, received the first U. S. Conference of Mayors President’s Award in 2000, was named one of the 2004 Giants of Design by House Beautiful magazine, was awarded the ASLA 2004 Olmstead Medal and received the South Carolina Governor’s Award in the Humanities in 2005.

Riley is a frequent speaker across the country on urban design and livability issues. He was a founder of the Mayors' Institute for City Design (MICD) and has provided urban design support to mayors across America. Riley received the 1994 Thomas Jefferson Award from the American Institute of Architects for Public Architecture, and the American Society of Landscape Architects named him an honorary member for his leadership and vision.

He was born in Charleston in 1943. He graduated from Bishop England High School, The Citadel (1964) and the University of South Carolina School of Law (1967). In 1968, Mayor Riley was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives, where he served for six years. He and his wife Charlotte have two sons, Joe and Bratton.