On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, we lost beloved husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Samuel Gayle Riley III. Sam was born on October 8, 1939, in Raleigh, N.C., the only child of Samuel Gayle Riley Jr. and Janie Ruth Blalock Riley. His childhood and youth were in his words “idyllic,” thanks mostly to the strong foundation his admirable parents provided for him. He graduated from Needham Broughton High School in 1957, and then received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from Davidson College in 1961, and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and a Ph.D. in Mass Communication Research from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1962 and 1970, respectively.
He accepted a position at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1970; and in 1974, started a brand new journalism program at Georgia Southern College in Statesboro, Ga., where he served as department head. He started in Virginia Tech’s Communication Department in 1981 and taught there full time for 33 years. He spent four of his years at Tech as head of the department. He taught and researched in the areas of magazine writing, opinion writing, communications law and ethics, and media institutions.
He wrote 19 books; numerous scholarly journal articles and conference papers; more than 1,000 reference book entries on Southern newspapers, Southern magazines, African-American newspaper columnists in the South, Will Rogers, and other media figures and topics; and established a blog, Riley’s Blog of Fame, which honored some his students’ best writing. Sam is considered the, or one of the, world’s leading authorities on Southern newspapers and Southern magazines. His last book was published in January of this year by Pocahontas Press. A deeply personal homage to his wonderful mother, Janie, this book is titled, Things My Southern Mother Used to Say: Yesteryear’s Expressions
From Piedmont N.C., and is a treasure for his family for generations to come. Beyond his many professional accomplishments, Sam’s greatest legacy is the joy he brought everyone who knew him. He was a “bon vivant and a raconteur,” a gentleman and a gentle man.
Sam Riley is survived by his wife, Rebecca Riley; son, Daniel Riley; daughter, Heather Ducote, her husband, Bryan Ducote, and their children, Jane, Mary, Jack, and Sam; former wife, Mary Elaine Riley; stepdaughter, Jennifer Rhue, her husband, Chris Rhue, and their daughter, Vivienne; stepdaughter, Cindy Nance, her husband, Greg Nance, and their children, Brady and Carter; and hundreds of relatives, friends, former and current students, and colleagues.
A memorial service will be held at McCoy Funeral Home at 2 p.m., Saturday, March 29, 2014. The family requests, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Communication Department at Virginia Tech. Donations may be mailed to Shanks Hall, Mail Code 0311, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, and may be payable to Communications Department, Virginia Tech, with “in memory of Sam Riley” noted on the message line.