John H. Riley

John H. Riley (January 19, 1947-March 6, 1994) was an American attorney and railroad transportation administrator. He was born and raised in New York, and moved to Minnesota after graduating from law school.

Riley went to Washington DC in 1978 as an aide to U.S. Senator David Durenberger (R-Minnesota) and was his chief counsel and later, his chief of staff. In 1982, Riley received a Presidential appointment to serve as head of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) from 1983-1989 in the administration of President Ronald W. Reagan under Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole. He is credited for recruiting W. Graham Claytor Jr. to come out of retirement and head Amtrak for eleven years. Riley was a longtime Amtrak supporter, and worked tirelessly for its funding during his years in Washington.

In 1990, Riley was named as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation. He resigned in 1991 when he was diagnosed with an aggressive tumor in his brain. Despite two major surgeries at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, and two periods of remission during which he returned to rail leadership roles in Minnesota, he died of brain cancer in March, 1994, and was buried in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.


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