Governor Bob Riley’s Digital Photographs Now Live on Preservica

Digital photographs from Governor Bob Riley’s administration went live in the Alabama Department of Archives and History Electronic Records Collections on November 22, 2019, joining Governor Riley’s electronic office files. This site provides access to born-digital records through Preservica, a cloud-based subscription service that stores and migrates electronic file formats to ensure their long-term preservation.

Robert Renfroe “Bob” Riley was born in Talladega, Alabama in 1944. He grew up in the small town of Ashland, Alabama, where his family had worked on ranches and farms for six generations. In 1962, he graduated from Clay County High School and went on to pursue a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Alabama. He married his high school sweetheart, Patsy Adams, whose father owned a drugstore down the street from the Riley’s family store in Ashland. Upon his graduation in 1965, Riley returned to his hometown to sell eggs door-to-door and ultimately grow several small businesses, including a car dealership, a trucking company, a real estate company, a grocery store, and a small pharmacy. In his first political stint, he served on the Ashland City Council from 1972 until 1976.

In 1996, after a long break from politics, Riley began his first of three terms as a Republican in the United States House of Representatives. In Alabama’s 2002 primary for governor, he defeated Tim James, the son of former governor Fob James. In the general election, he narrowly defeated the democratic incumbent, Don Siegelman, to become the 52nd governor of Alabama.

In his first term, Riley focused on tax reform. His Amendment One tax package would have provided income tax breaks for lower tax brackets and increased taxes for higher brackets. Amendment One passed in the legislature but was rejected by voters. Riley persisted, working with the legislature to raise the income level at which individuals had to begin paying state income tax.

Education was another high priority of Riley’s administration. By executive order, he established the Governor’s Education Spending Commission to make recommendations for improvements in education. Although the legislature did not act on most of the commission’s recommendations, Riley did obtain increased funding for reading initiatives and distance learning programs.

In his second term, Riley endeavored to end conflicts of interest in the Alabama State Board of Education’s supervision of the community college system. He enacted a policy in 2008 to prohibit state community college employees from legislative service.

To improve economic conditions, he established the Black Belt Action Committee and worked to attract new business to the state, such as Hyundai in Montgomery and ThyssenKrupp in Mobile. He opposed gambling and used raids and legal action to shut down state-regulated electronic-bingo casinos.

In 2011, shortly after Governor Riley left office, his administration transferred paper and electronic records, including over 1.58 terabytes of digital photographs and videos. Because of the Office of the Governor’s historical significance, each administration’s permanent records are transferred to the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) at the end of the gubernatorial term.

Processing Governor Riley’s photographs required extensive “weeding.” Have you ever used “burst mode” with a phone camera to take several photos within a single second? Or have you taken twenty nearly identical pictures to get the perfect photo for Instagram? You wouldn’t want to keep every single one of these highly similar photos. Likewise, many of Riley’s photos were duplicates or alternate shots of the same person at the same event. The ADAH removed photographs that were blurry or duplicates so that researchers using Preservica will have to sort through less bulk.

Riley made hundreds of public appearances during his tenure. He publicly signed bills, presented proclamations, and made speeches like the annual State of the State Address. He spoke at a variety of venues, from schools, to businesses, to local rotary clubs. He participated in annual events like the Thanksgiving Turkey Pardoning and the Christmas Tree Lighting. He also responded to crises in the state. Photographs of these events and others document not only Governor Riley, but the history of Alabama.

Ready to start researching?

  • Access Governor Riley’s Chief of Staff, Policy Office, and Press Office files with the ADAH Electronic Records Collections.
  • Access Governor Riley’s digital photographs in the ADAH Electronic Records Collections.
  • Access Governor Riley’s paper records in the ADAH Research Room. Paper records include clipping files, scheduling files, administrative files, correspondence files, project files, legal subject files, execution files, and more.

Sources:

Alabama Governors: A Political History of the State. 2nd edition. Edited by Samuel L. Webb and Margaret E. Armbrester. University of Alabama Press, 2014.

“Bob Riley.” Alabama Governors. Alabama Department of Archives and History. https://archives.alabama.gov/govs_list/riley.html

This initiative was supported in part by a National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant to the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) and the Office of the Governor.

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