Alabama Governor Bob Riley left the State Capitol more than a year ago after two terms in office, but now his image will hang there in perpetuity after the former governor's official portrait was unveiled Wednesday.
Family, friends, former staff, current Governor Robert Bentley, House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh all gathered for a portrait unveiling ceremony at the Department of Archives and History. The portrait projects the former governor's famous optimism, showing a smiling Governor Riley in a dark suit, red tie and signature state of Alabama lapel pin. Paid for by private donations and not at taxpayer expense, the portrait was painted by Birmingham artist Mark Carder, who also painted the portrait of former President George W. Bush.
Governor Riley expressed gratitude to those who had supported him and contributed to his successful eight years as the state's chief executive.
"I will always be proud of what we accomplished together," Governor Riley said. "I hope more than anything this portrait will be a testament to the hard work and dedication of so many who believed in this state and helped make it a better place. Working together we laid a foundation on which this next generation of leaders is building a better Alabama. I truly believe Alabama's best days are ahead."
Governor Riley was elected to be the state's 52nd governor in 2002 and reelected in 2006. He is the only Republican governor to serve two full consecutive terms in office.
His accomplishments included:
* economic development successes that led to record low unemployment;
* improvements in education quality that saw Alabama climb from the bottom rung in state rankings to 25th nationally, according to the Education Week "Quality Counts" report;
* and sweeping accountability and transparency reforms that gave the state some of the strongest anti-corruption laws in the country.
House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Business Council of Alabama President and CEO Billy Canary, both close friends of the former governor, were featured speakers at the event and remarked about his accomplishments.
"Where would Alabama be without Bob Riley?" Speaker Hubbard asked. "It's a sobering thought. Governor Riley's administration will serve as the standard against which all future governors will be judged, and rightly so. He was Alabama's most prolific job creator, advanced programs that changed the face of education in Alabama, and passed some of the strictest accountability laws in the country. He is also an honest man who led our state for eight years without a hint of scandal within his administration."
Canary also touted Governor Riley's accomplishments.
"Today, we honor a man who has been recognized not only in our state, but nationally, as one who made Alabama a trailblazer in education, a leader in economic development, and a place where government officials are held to the highest standards of transparency and accountability," Canary said. "Under his leadership, Alabama experienced the creation of nearly 150,000 new jobs, record low unemployment, and an unprecedented increase in funding to educate our schoolchildren. Alabama's economic development was ranked number one of all 50 states and as one of the best in the south for several consecutive years, largely due to this man's and his team's successful recruitment of industries, from automotive to biotechnology, from life sciences to steel manufacturing."
The portrait will be in place in the rotunda of the State Capitol by the end of March. Located at 600 Dexter Avenue in Montgomery, the Capitol is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The rotunda is located on the second floor of the building between the historic House and Senate chambers.
INFORMATION SOURCE: Alabama Department of Archives and History