Outstanding native son Flash#039; Riley

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2001

(Editor's note: The following cannot in any way be construed as a requiem for a departed friend; we consider it to be a character sketch on one of Greenville's outstanding native sons, James William Flash' Riley II, who departed this life on Saturday morning, May 19.)

His life on this earth was no ordinary, run-of-the-mill affair; it was possessed rather of a sort of mystique.

Flash had the special esoteric skill that fitted into his life's activity, not unlike a hand fits comfortably into a glove.

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At age 74 he had achieved his calling in the fields of construction, real estate estimations (always in the forefront) and whatever other undertaking into which he may have entered.

At Auburn University, and secondary schools as well Flash was far and away above his peers, and most of his instructors in his scholastic capabilities.

His I.Q. was astronomical, so great that it shot through the ceiling, placing him in the front row with Einstein, Euclid and Wernher Von Braun.

He knew all about relativity and rocket science; it has been recorded that the theorems exposed by Euclid were like child's play for our friend.

Flash also was thoroughly honest in all his dealings with his fellow man.

To prove up this last assertion we paraphrase a recent discussion with friend Howard Salter who had had dealings with Flash in the 1950s and later:

Howard was just starting out in the glass business in mid-century, and in Flash's constructing enterprises he made frequent use of Salter's products and installations.

Routinely the glass company would bill its customers at the end of the month. On occasion Flash would pay up, but on some of those occasions he'd point out to him (Salter) that the billing was incorrect, that the invoices failed to include other jobs and materials used in providing those goods and services. When those invoices were readjusted, Flash would pay up.

That procedure impressed Salter so effectively that he continues to sing his praises.

In addition to his expertise in his chosen fields, Flash was adept at sports and play. He was a scratch golfer, an expert at contract bridge and also could kick a football out of sight.

This astute gentleman is survived by his wife of many years, the former Mary Matheson (Williamson) Riley, his frequent golfing and bridge partner and full-time helpmate; a son, James III, a highly successful advertising executive and a promotions expert, and a daughter, Lamar Riley Murphy, a scholarly Ph.D. Other survivors include his 96-year-old father, Fred H. Riley, and brother, Fred Jr.

Flash, admired by his many contemporaries, leaves a void it will be difficult to fill.