William Riley Jr.

  • Major General
  • Honorary Vietnam


William (Bill) Riley Jr was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island in 1938. He was an academic standout and all-star swimmer, graduating from Tolman High School in 1956 and earning a State Swim Championship in the 200 Yard Freestyle and also the National Swimming Championship for Boys Clubs held at Yale University. Upon graduation, he received a scholarship to swim for Bowdoin College. While attending college, he was in ROTC, swam all four years, and was a member of Chi Psi Fraternity. MG Riley graduated in 1960 as a Distinguished Military Graduate receiving a regular Army commission.

He was commissioned in the Anti-Aircraft Artillery Corps serving first as a Support Platoon Leader at Ft Bliss, TX. He went on to serve as a Hawk Battery Commander in Germany. His next assignment was as an operations officer for Military Assistance Command-Vietnam during the Tet Offensive in 1968. His primary duty was to assess and improve the defenses of Saigon. This resulted in him flying over 163 combat missions. His other assignments included: Hawk Battalion Commander in Key West, protecting airspace from Cuban MIG fighter incursions; Professor of Military Science at the University of Rhode Island; Air Defense Artillery Brigade Commander in the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis WA. Additionally, MG Riley served as the Assistant Commandant of the U.S. Army’s Air Defense Artillery School at Fort Bliss, TX. He served three tours of duty in the Middle East. As a Lieutenant Colonel, MG Riley was the senior ADA advisor to the Saudi Arabian Army, which included supervising the deployment of Hawk and Vulcan Air Defense systems into the country. As a Colonel, he served as the Chief of Staff of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force in the Sinai, Egypt and as a General Officer, MG Riley was the project manager for modernizing the Saudi Army. MG Riley completed his Army career as a Major General assigned as the Deputy Commanding General for the Third U.S. Army at Fort McPherson, GA in 1990.

MG Riley received a Master’s in Business Administration in 1974 as well as an Honorary Doctorate in 1990 from the University of Rhode Island. He also received a Master’s degree from the Naval War College. His military decorations include: Distinguished Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Joint Service and Army Commendation Medals, King Abdul Aziz Medal, among other service and foreign awards.

After MG Riley’s service in the Army, he became the Vice President and General Manager of International Operations for Lear Seigler until 1995 when he became a partner for Smith, Schultz, Riley and Carrington until his retirement in 2012.  MG Riley was a fervent volunteer to the soldiers and families of Fort Bliss. He was a frequent lecturer at the University of Texas at El Paso and the Air Defense Museum. He was an active member of the El Paso Rotary Club, earning Rotarian of the Year in 2006.

 MG Riley was married to the former Patricia Castle from Pawtucket, RI for 60 years and has four children: David, Thomas, Deborah and Paul, 10 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.  MG William H. Riley made a significant contribution to the U.S Army and the URI community. As the PMS of the URI ROTC, he recruited, trained, and mentored numerous military officers who would rise to the highest ranks in the Army. MG Riley had a passion for leading and caring for Soldiers and their Families as reflected by his many successes. As a native of Rhode Island, and as the PMS at URI as well as recipient of URI degrees, MG Riley is worthy of induction into the URI ROTC Hall of Fame in Honorary status. He and his sister, SFC (R) Sandra Riley provide an endowed URI ROTC scholarship in their name. He died on 9 May 2019.