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Ann Yarborough "Tunky" Riley Papers

Identifier: SCU-SCPC-AYR

Mrs. Riley's papers consist of Public papers relating to her work as First Lady of South Carolina, as well as Personal papers, Speeches, Clippings, and a small number of photographs. The Public papers particularly document her leadership on education issues and her active involvement in the Governor's Mansion renovations. Personal papers and photographs include material on Mrs. Riley’s family and family history. The Speeches series includes many on subjects close to Mrs. Riley's heart, including various facets of education, adult literacy, volunteerism, and the arts.


  • c. 1880s-2008, bulk 1978-1988



Library Use Only


3 Linear Feet


Ann Osteen Yarborough Riley served as South Carolina's First Lady from 1979 until 1987. She was known not only for her gracious hospitality and warmth, but for her work toward improving South Carolina's educational system and her active involvement in the Governor's Mansion renovations.

Biographical Note

Ann Osteen Yarborough Riley served as South Carolina's First Lady from 1979 until 1987, and was known not only for her gracious hospitality and warmth, but for her work toward improving South Carolina's educational system. The daughter of Hubert Yarborough and Anne Yarborough Bryson, Mrs. Riley was born in Florence, SC. Known from childhood by the nickname “Tunky” (a Gullah word meaning “sweet little baby”), she was a graduate of McClenaghan High School. She earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of South Carolina. In 1957, she married Richard W. “Dick” Riley, then a law student at USC. Following his graduation, they moved to Washington, D.C., where Riley worked for Senator Olin D. Johnston and the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ultimately the Rileys returned to the state, settling in Greenville, which Riley represented in the General Assembly from 1963 to 1977. The couple had four children: Richard, Jr., Anne, Hubert, and Ted.

Mrs. Riley was actively involved for years in the Greenville public schools, as a volunteer coordinator, tutor, and teacher. That interest carried over into her husband's priorities as a legislator, governor, and, eventually, Secretary of Education under President Bill Clinton. In 2006, Riley credited his wife as “one of the chief reasons he got involved in education.” Mrs. Riley was a full partner in the Riley administration's efforts to advance public education, leading the Governor's Task Force on Citizen Participation in Education, as well as chairing the South Carolina Adult Reading Campaign and helping to marshal support for 1984's landmark Education Improvement Act. Mrs. Riley also took interest in the arts, wildflowers, and natural beauty, but as she told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal in 1986, “My primary interest has always been in education, and I've spent much of my efforts working with various committees, programs and reforms—like the Education Improvement Act—because I believe education is the most important function state government provides.”

One of Mrs. Riley's most visible projects as First Lady was raising funds for, planning, and carrying out a major renovation to the state's Governor's Mansion. The Mansion, its grounds and associated buildings, including the Lace House and the Caldwell-Boylston House, were developed into a nine-acre complex featuring refurbished gardens and the Mansion Mall area that is now a gathering place for public and private events.

Mrs. Riley was diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 1980s, but continued her work as First Lady during the treatment of her cancer. She was noted for her regular presence in the chamber of the South Carolina Senate during debate on the Education Improvement Act, despite undergoing chemotherapy. In March 2008, after a recurrence of the disease, Mrs. Riley passed away at the age of 72. A resolution passed by the General Assembly soon afterward stated in part, “Ann Riley is remembered as gracious and kind in every situation and a friend to everyone she knew. She was a rock to her husband personally and politically and an example and teacher to her children; and…the members of the South Carolina General Assembly are saddened to learn of the death of Ann Yarborough Riley who served her beloved Palmetto State so effectively with such vitality and grace.”


Donated by the Honorable and Mrs. Richard W. Riley.


Copyright of the Ann Yarborough “Tunky” Riley papers has been transferred to the University of South Carolina.

Processing Information

Processed by Dorothy Hazelrigg, 2009; additions, 2016, by Dorothy Walker and Mae Bradford.


Repository Details

Part of the South Carolina Political Collections Repository

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA

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