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South Carolina

SC Governors – Richard Wilson Riley, 1979-1987

South Carolina SC History SC Governors Governor Richard Wilson Riley

Also see: SC Government

Biographical Overview

  • Born: January 22, 1933 in Greenville County, SC
  • Died:
  • Buried:
  • Religion:
  • Political Party: Democrat
Portrait of Richard Wilson Riley
Richard Wilson Riley
Courtesy of South Carolina Legislative Manual



  • US Navy - served on a minesweeper
  • Lawyer

Major Events and Accomplishments, 1st Term, 1979–1983

  • 1979 – South Carolina's Nuclear Advisory Council was created to control the shipment of nuclear waste into the state following the nuclear reactor accident at Three Mile Island, PA
  • November 19, 1979 – Camden native Lane Kirkland was elected second president of the AFL-CIO
  • October 28, 1980 – The Catawba Indians filed a suit claiming title to 140,000 acres in York and Lancaster counties
  • November 4, 1980 – Voters approved an amendment to the state constitution allowing governors to serve two consecutive terms
  • December 1, 1980 – University of South Carolina running back George Rogers won the Heisman trophy
  • 1981 – Governor Riley received the Special Conservation Achievement Award from the National Wildlife Federation

Major Events and Accomplishments, 2nd Term, 1983–1987

  • October 25, 1983 – The Reverend I. DeQuincy Newman became the first black South Carolina state senator to be elected in the 20th century
  • 1984 – Governor Riley signed the Education Improvement Act, increasing the state sales tax by 1% in order to raise $250 million to fund public school reform
  • July 12, 1985 – Ernest A. Finney, Jr. became the first black South Carolina Supreme Court justice to be elected since Reconstruction
  • January 28, 1986 – Lake City native rel="nofollow"Ronald E. McNair was one of the astronauts killed in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger
  • October 1986 – After ninety-five years of local ownership by the Hampton family, The State announced its sale to giant newspaper chain Knight-Ridder
  • 1979-1987 – By the end of Governor Riley's second term, he had visited each of the state's ninety-one school districts
  • 1979-1987 – Over the course of Governor Riley's years in office, South Carolina's per student spending on education rose from 49th in the nation to 41st

Other Government Positions

  • SC House of Representatives, 1963-1966
  • SC Senate, 1967-1976
  • US Secretary of Education, 1993-2000

Other Accomplishments, Honors, Distinctions

  • 1998 – Received Indiana University's first Urban University Medal

Web Resources

Election Results

Democratic Primary – 1st term - 1978
Richard Wilson Riley 125,185 votes 32.9%
W. Brantley Harvey 142,785 votes 37.5%
William Jennings Bryan Dorn 112,793 votes 29.6%

Democratic Runoff – 1st term - 1978
Richard Wilson Riley 180,822 votes 53.3%
W. Brantley Harvey 158,665 votes 46.7%

Republican Primary – 1st term - 1978
Edward L. Young 12,172 votes 51.4%
Raymond Finch 11,499 votes 48.6%

General Election – 1st term - 1978
Richard Wilson Riley 384,898 votes 61.4%
Edward L. Young 236,946 votes 37.8%

Democratic Primary – 2nd term - 1982
Governor Riley was unopposed in the 1982 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Republican Primary – 2nd term - 1982
W.D. Workman 17,128 votes 81.8%
Roddy T. Martin 3,816 votes 18.2%

General Election – 2nd term - 1982
Richard Wilson Riley 468,819 votes 69.8%
W.D. Workman 202,806 votes 30.2%


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