Clemson University Rutland Institute names Joe Riley Jr. James F. Barker Ethics in Action Award honoree

October 27, 2017

Clemson University’s Rutland Institute for Ethics advisory board has selected Joseph (Joe) P. Riley Jr., former mayor of the City of Charleston, to receive the 2018 James F. Barker Ethics in Action Award. Riley will be recognized at a dinner in his honor on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, at The Francis Marion Hotel.

“Mayor Riley’s career transcends the unsavory flavor so often associated with politics,” said Kelly Durham, chair of the advisory board of the Rutland Institute for Ethics. “He led by serving others, from the least fortunate to the most affluent, regardless of race, party or faction. To him, everyone is important and everyone is worthy of inclusion. He is a worthy recipient of the James F. Barker Ethics in Action Award.”

Bestowed upon an exceptional individual whose actions exemplify integrity, the James F. Barker Ethics in Action award brings ethics into focus through real-life application. It is named for the former president of Clemson University. Nominators, and the subsequent selection panel, look for an individual with actions or significant accomplishments revealing deep and sustained commitment to ethical conduct and the value of integrity. Nominations were accepted from across South Carolina and were reviewed by a subcommittee of the Rutland Institute for Ethics advisory board.

“I am greatly humbled to be named the 2018 James F. Barker Ethics in Action Award recipient,” Riley said. “I have known Jim Barker for over a quarter of a century. There is no one I hold in higher regard than Jim Barker. His sense of duty and strong adherence to the principals of honesty, integrity and service have inspired me and countless students and alumni at Clemson and beyond.”

Of Riley, Barker said, “He is one of the finest men I have ever known, not for just what he accomplished, but for how he accomplished it. I have tried to follow his example for decades.”

Riley is considered one of the most visionary and highly effective governmental leaders in America. He served 10 terms as mayor of Charleston from 1975 to 2016.
He graduated from The Citadel in 1964 and the University of South Carolina Law School in 1967, and served in the S.C. House of Representatives from 1968 to 1974.

In his time as mayor, Charleston transformed from a decaying urban center to a top cultural destination. He is known for his innovative redevelopment projects, carefully crafted to add to the overall quality of life in the city. He defused racial tensions by working closely with the African-American community. The crisis leadership that he demonstrated after Hurricane Hugo in 1989 gained national praise for getting the city quickly cleaned up and running.

Today, Riley is professor of American government and public policy at The Citadel and executive-in- residence at the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Center for Livable Communities at the College of Charleston. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the Pew Charitable Trusts, working on smart solutions for flood-prone communities and the national government, and is the first Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Urban Land Institute. Riley also is currently working to build the International African American Museum, a $75 million project scheduled to break ground in 2018.

Under Riley’s leadership, Charleston increased its commitment to racial harmony and progress, achieved a substantial decrease in crime and experienced a remarkable revitalization of its historic downtown business district. His leadership supported the creation and growth of Spoleto Festival USA; added significantly to the city’s park system, including the highly celebrated Waterfront Park; developed nationally acclaimed affordable housing; and experienced unprecedented growth in Charleston’s size and population.

Riley led a city government with an impressive record of innovation in public safety, housing, arts and culture, children’s issues 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. President Barack Obama presented him with the 2009 National Medal of the Arts for cultivating Charleston’s historic and cultural resources to enhance public spaces and for revitalizing urban centers throughout the U.S. as the founder of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design. The American Architectural Foundation and the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2010 created the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Award for Leadership in City Design in his honor.

He received the American Society of Landscape Architects’ 2004 Olmsted Medal; Governing Magazine named him its Public Official of the Year in 2003 for “leveraging the power of urban design and civic space.” The American Architectural Foundation honored him in 2002 with the Keystone Award for exemplary leadership to those who use architecture to transform their communities. He was named one of the 2004 Giants of Design by House Beautiful Magazine and received the first U.S. Conference of Mayors President’s Award in 2000 for outstanding leadership.

In 2000, he was honored as the first recipient of the Urban Land Institute’s J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionary Urban Development, and also in 2000, was honored with the Arthur J. Clement Award in Race Relations for his battle to remove the Confederate flag from the S.C. Statehouse. Riley received the 1994 Thomas Jefferson Award for “his exceptional leadership and ‘Jeffersonian’ vision in redefining the promise and, ultimately, the future of our nation and its cities.”

He has received the Seaside Prize from the Seaside Institute for exemplary leadership and contributions to high-quality urban design throughout America. He received the Outstanding Mayors Award from the National Urban Coalition, the Distinguished Citizen Award by the National Association of Realtors. He served as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 1986-87 and has received honorary degrees from 10 colleges and universities.

Riley is the fourth recipient of Clemson’s James F. Barker Ethics in Action Award. The first recipient, in 2014, was the award’s namesake, former Clemson University President James F. Barker. Scott Dishman and Minor Shaw received the Ethics in Action Award in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Table sponsorships for the James F. Barker Ethics in Action Award Dinner honoring Mr. Riley are available, starting at $3,000, and can be reserved by calling 864-248-0255. All proceeds from the evening benefit the Rutland Institute for Ethics through the Clemson University Foundation.


About Rutland Institute for Ethics

Named for Robert J. Rutland, the Rutland Institute for Ethics at Clemson University was created to encourage discussion on campus, in businesses and in the community about how ethical decision-making can be the basis of both personal and professional success. For more information about the Rutland Institute, its programs and impacts, visit