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Ken Riley, 1947-2020


Last updated 6/10/2020 at 10:43am

Ken Riley

Kenneth Jerome Riley, Sr., age 72, of Bartow, FL, died Sunday, June 7, 2020, at Bartow Regional Medical Center in Bartow, FL. Born Aug. 6, 1947, he was a member of the Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Gordonville, FL. He served in the U.S. Army.

Ken Riley played 15 seasons in the National Football League, all with the Cincinnati Bengals. He was a three time All Pro defensive back and played in Super Bowl XVI. Riley began his professional career as a sixth round pick in the 1969 NFL draft. He ended his NFL career in 1983 with 65 interceptions, the fifth most in NFL history.

Riley started his football career at Union Academy in Bartow where he excelled as a quarterback. He graduated from Union Academy in 1965 and matriculated to Florida A & M University and was the starting quarterback for four seasons. While at FAMU, he was a Rhodes Scholar nominee and Senior class President.

At the conclusion of his professional playing days, Riley became an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers for two seasons. In 1968, he returned to FAMU and became the head football coach for seven seasons. He won two Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championships, complied a 48-39-2 record and was named twice MEAC coach of the year. In 1993, Riley became FAMU's Athletic Director for several years. In 2004, he returned home to Bartow and became a Dean at Winter Haven High School until his retirement from the school system.

Riley thus began his career of community service. He started a community outreach program called EPAC, Inc. the Eastside Positive Action Committee designed to improve the Bartow community and created the Ken Riley Foundation, Inc. The Foundation was created to provide economic support to financially challenged students in their pursuit of an advanced education that includes college or technical schools. He volunteered as a mentor at several Polk County Public schools. He was the President of the Union Academy High School Alumni Association that provided scholarships to students locally and nationally. Riley was a positive contributor in an effort to improve the quality of life in the community of Bartow.

Riley was named to the Florida High School Athletic Association All Century Team. He was inducted into the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame's inaugural class in 2000. He was also a member of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, the Black College Football Hall of Fame, as well as several other Halls of Fame.

He is survived by his wife: Barbara M. Riley of Bartow; stepfather: Willie M. Turner of Bartow; two daughters: Kimberly (Eaion) Connor of Orlando and Kenisha (Damien) Avery of Gibsonton; one son: Kenneth (Tiffany) Riley of Houston, TX; two sisters: Michelle Sams of Bartow and Bessie (Elijah) Armstrong of Lakeland; two aunts: Mary Woodruff of Bartow and Mildred Penson of Baton Rouge, LA.

Viewing at Gause Funeral Home from 5-7 p.m. Friday, June 12. Funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 13 at the RP Funding Center, 701 West Lime Street, Lakeland. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you send your donations to the Ken Riley Foundation, P. O. Box 2164, Bartow, FL 33831.

Interment will be at Wildwood Cemetery, Bartow, FL.


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