- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden praised longtime Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. on Thursday, saying he has led his historic city for four decades with the conscience of a saint and the heart of a lion.

The vice president, a longtime friend who met the mayor shortly after Riley took office, spoke at a gala in Riley’s honor. Riley, mayor of Charleston longer than anyone in the city’s 345-year history, is retiring next month after 10 terms in office.

“An institution is the lengthened shadow of a man,” Biden said. “Charleston in 2015 is the lengthened shadow of Joe Riley.”

Riley is largely credited with overseeing a renaissance in the city that has seen Charleston become one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

“If you want to understand Joe Riley, you only have to understand the meaning of a single word: character,” the vice president said.

“Mr. Mayor, you are given great credit - deserved credit - for guiding this historic city into the 21st century with the keen eye of the designer and the conscience and the ethical standards of saint and the heart of a lion,” the vice president said.

Biden praised Riley for bringing the city together following the fatal shootings of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church earlier this year and for working tirelessly a quarter century ago to help rebuild Charleston after Hurricane Hugo.

He also praised the mayor for what he said was Riley’s “unrelenting insistence on social justice and racial equality and economic fairness.”

The gala benefited one of Riley’s favorite projects, the International African American Museum, which is planned for the Charleston waterfront at the spot where thousands of enslaved Africans first stepped foot in North America.

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