Joseph P. Riley, Jr. was born in 1943 in Charleston, South Carolina. He attended The Citadel and the University of South Carolina School of Law. Riley served six years in the South Carolina House of Representatives and was elected Mayor of Charleston in 1975. He served ten four-year terms as Mayor, leading the city in areas of cultural diversity, the arts, tourism, economic development, and city planning. He also shepherded Charleston through the ravages of Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and the Emanuel Church shootings in 2015.