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Riley Institute honors late Senator Clementa Pinckney, Mayor Joe Riley, Governor Nikki Haley

The late South Carolina Senator Clementa Pinckney.

Furman University’s Riley Institute has announced that the late South Carolina Senator Clementa Pinckney, along with Governor Nikki Haley and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, are this year’s recipients of the David H. Wilkins Awards for Excellence.

The late South Carolina Senator Clementa Pinckney.

The late South Carolina Senator Clementa Pinckney

The awards dinner will take place at Columbia’s Metropolitan Convention Center Tuesday, Jan. 12, the first night of the legislative session.

Sen. Pinckney, posthumous winner of the Wilkins Award for Excellence in Legislative Leadership, also served as pastor of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. He was among the nine people killed in the shootings that took place at the church in June.  He served in the South Carolina legislature from the age of 23, and represented the 45th District in the state Senate at the time of his death.

Sen. Pinckney’s widow, Jennifer, will accept the award.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

Haley and Riley, joint winners of the Wilkins Award for Excellence in Civic Leadership, will serve as speakers during the program, discussing how they each worked with other leaders in South Carolina in the wake of the massacre at Mother Emanuel church.

“The Riley Institute strongly believes these that these choices by the Selection Committee are particularly fitting during a year that has been so challenging for our state,” said Don Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute.  “Senator Pinckney’s life was characterized by humility, intelligence and a commitment to those citizens left out of the economic mainstream in South Carolina.  He worked with colleagues in the Senate and elsewhere for the common good in our state. To honor Governor Haley and Mayor Riley, each of whom demonstrated critical leadership during a time of enormous grief and angst in South Carolina, is also an important decision by the Committee. Their responses to the Emanuel 9 tragedy helped bring healing to our state.”

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley

The annual ceremony honors David Wilkins, who served as speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives and as U.S. Ambassador to Canada.  Wilkins will co-host the event with former U.S. Secretary of Education and former two-term Governor of South Carolina Dick Riley and Furman President Elizabeth Davis.

Haley is serving her second term as South Carolina Governor.  Riley was first elected mayor of Charleston in December 1975 and is retiring after serving an unprecedented 10 terms in office.

A reception for all registered attendees will begin at 6 p.m., and the dinner and awards presentation begins at 7:15 p.m.  Tickets are $125 each and can be purchased by calling 864-235-8330 or visiting the Riley Institute website.  Sponsorships are available. For more information, contact the Riley Institute at 864-294-3546 or e-mail

Furman’s Richard W. Riley Institute broadens student and community perspectives about issues critical to South Carolina’s progress. It builds and engages present and future leaders, creates and shares data-supported information about the state’s core challenges, and links the leadership body to sustainable solutions. It is committed to nonpartisanship in all it does and to a rhetoric-free, facts-based approach to change.

Last updated December 23, 2015
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Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director