Kingsley Riley's life has been about children - teaching them in her classroom and advocating for them as a Richmond County Board of Education member.
On Sunday, the community gathered to celebrate Mrs. Riley's legacy and to thank her for her decades of work.
Mrs. Riley, 73, hugged friends, neighbors and fellow educators who gathered at John S. Davidson Fine Arts Academy to shower her with praise. She sighed at the end of an hourlong ceremony, which included a video presentation of her life.
"What can I say?" Mrs. Riley said. "My, my, my, my. How sweet it is. Then I can say tonight how sweet it was."
Mrs. Riley stepped down from her 9th District at-large seat last month because of health problems. She had served on the board for 19 years.
School board Superintendent Dr. Charles Larke said he was most impressed with Mrs. Riley's more than 50 years of service to education, more than 30 of those in the classroom. Mrs. Riley retired as a teacher in 1980 but had worked for Burke, Columbia and Richmond counties.
"Kingsley Riley fought for 19 years for equal opportunity for all students," Mr. Larke said. "The one thing she always said to me was `Keep your eye on the prize.'"
The prize for Mrs. Riley was her endless concern for the children, state Sen. Charles Walker said. He spoke about how, as Mrs. Riley's neighbor, his children were dear to her.
"It is this commitment to children that made Mrs. Riley different," he said.
After graduating from Fayetteville State Teachers College in North Carolina in 1948, Mrs. Riley was hired as a classroom teacher in Burke County.
She went on to win Teacher of the Year three times - once in Burke County and twice in Richmond County. Last month the board recognized her with a lifetime achievement award.
The awards continued Sunday as Augusta-Richmond County Commissioner Jerry Brigham, standing in for Mayor Bob Young, who is in Philadelphia, proclaimed July 30 Kingsley Riley Day in Augusta.
Mrs. Riley's seat will be filled after a special election in November. Her term has another two years left on it.
Sen. Walker questioned the crowd as to who could replace Mrs. Riley and her trademark talk about her faith and tenacious ability to ask the right questions when no one else wanted to hear them.
"She would always say, `What about the children?'" he said. "Mrs. Riley would keep us focused. I wonder who's going to do that now. I wonder who is going to be brave enough to get off key about the children. "
Reach Matthew Boedy can be reached at (706) 823-3339.
73 years old
Served for 19 years on the Richmond County Board of Education before her resignation last month because of health concerns. Mrs. Riley taught in Burke, Columbia and Richmond counties prior to running for the school board in 1980.