Former LA Mayor Richard Riordan Dead at 92

Richard Riordan was mayor from 1993 to 2001 and the only Republican to hold the nonpartisan position since 1961.

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Former Los Angles Mayor Richard Riordan, who faced the challenges of uniting the city following the Rodney King riots and rebuilding it following the 1994 Northridge earthquake, died Wednesday at age 92, his family said.

Riordan was mayor from 1993 to 2001 and the only Republican to hold the nonpartisan position since 1961. He died peacefully at his home in Brentwood, "surrounded by his wife Elizabeth, family, friends and precious pet dogs,'' the family's statement said.

The lawyer and venture capitalist was a member of the Los Angeles Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners before he succeeded Tom Bradley as mayor.

Riordan took office slightly more than a year after the rioting that followed the verdict in the state trial of the Los Angeles Police Department officers accused in the beating of Rodney King. He faced another significant challenge during his first year in office with the 1994 Northridge earthquake. 

“Mayor Richard Riordan loved Los Angeles, and devoted so much of himself to bettering our city,” Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement. “He always had a place in his heart for the children of LA, and worked to improve how the city served our youth and communities as a passionate member of the Los Angeles Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners. 

“Mayor Riordan's legacy includes our city's iconic Central Library, which he saved and rebuilt, and which today carries his name. 

“In the wake of the Northridge earthquake, Mayor Riordan set the standard for emergency action. He reassured us and delivered a response with an intensity that still pushes us all to be faster and stronger amidst crisis. 

Former Mayor Richard Riordan raises his arms to the sky outside of his downtown restaurant The Original Pantry Cafe on May 14, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gary Leonard/Getty Images)

“Though born in New York, Mayor Riordan will be remembered as an LA Original.”

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Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian said Riordan loved Los Angeles and his contributions to the city are extraordinary and lasting.

"When the city was devastated by the Northridge earthquake he threw every ounce of his energy and managerial skill into the city's recovery, and vital infrastructure was rebuilt in record time,'' Krekorian said in a statement. "Nowhere is his impact more visible than in downtown Los Angeles. He drove the long-delayed completion of Disney Concert Hall, presided over the restoration of City Hall, and rebuilt a library system that had been ravaged by budget cuts and the catastrophic Central Library fire.''

Riordan was instrumental in leading the drive for charter reform that created the neighborhood council system, Krekorian said.

"The conflicts of that era resisted easy resolution, but Mayor Riordan always aimed for progress not perfection, and in the Riordan years the city saw very real progress,'' Krekorian said.

Riordan was born May 1, 1930, and grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y. He was the youngest of eight children in an Irish Catholic family. He told the Los Angeles Times one of his most vivid Depression childhood memories was seeing
unemployed men coming to the family's back door in search of food or work. He attended an all-male Jesuit prep school where both neckties and Latin were mandatory.

He attended Santa Clara University, where he played on the football team. After two years at Santa Clara, he transferred to Princeton. Following his time at Princeton, he served in the Army in Korea and graduated first in his class at the University of Michigan Law School.

Riordan married Eugenia "Genie'' Warady at a resort in New York and moved to Southern California. They had five children and he built a law practice, eventually founding Riordan & McKinzie.

He emerged as a political player in the 1980s, lending $300,000 to Tom Bradley's campaign for governor and served on the city's Coliseum and Recreation and Parks commissions. He also helped lead a successful campaign to oust state Supreme Court Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird in 1986.

Two of Riordan's children died during his rise in political circles. Billy, his only son, died in a scuba diving accident off the East Coast days before his 22nd birthday. His daughter Carol died from complications of an eating disorder when she was 19.

Riordan was married four times. He was married to Genie Riordan for 23 years before the marriage was annulled by the Catholic church. He married Jill Noel in 1990, children's activist Nancy Daly in 1998, and Elizabeth Gregory, then head of admissions at Harvard-Westlake School, in 2017.  

Riordan is survived by his wife; three children, Mary Elizabeth Riordan, Kathleen Ann Riordan and Patricia Riordan Torrey; three grandchildren, Luca, Jessica and Elizabeth; and a sister, Mary Elizabeth Riordan Hearty.

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