Meridian Loses a Leader

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Dr. Richard Riley was a surgeon in Meridian for almost 50 years. His father had founded Riley Memorial Hospital in 1930, and in the early 1950s, Dr. Richard and his brother Dr. Billy, took over active management of the facility. In 1998, they sold the hospital for about $70 million.

Their friend, Riley Foundation financial manager and treasurer, Al Rosenbaum, says taking the money and just putting it away was the last thing on the brothers' minds.

"And they said, both of them, we owe so much to the community, let's give something back and that's the way the foundation came," said Rosenbaum.

The Riley Foundation came to be one of the most important aspects of Richard Riley's life.

"He loved seeing the success of the Riley Foundation," Rosenbaum said. "He would just go downtown and glory in it. Go take a look at Hope Village, look at the library, the reading books for the blind and the deaf."

The brothers then contributed $10 million to Mississippi State University in order to create the Riley Education and Performing Arts Center in downtown Meridian. The opening is planned for 2006.

Rosenbaum said the foundation, in Dr. Richard's name, will continue doing the things in which he was interested. There is a foundation board meeting Monday. Rosenbaum asked the family if it wanted the meeting postponed. The answer was no.

"They said keep on going, working, doing for the community. I'm satisfied they were right," Rosenbaum said.

Visitation will be Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Riley residence, 1805 36th Street. The funeral is 10:30 a.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church in Meridian.