Richard J. Riordan, Mayor of Los Angeles from 1993-2001, for whom the rebuilt Central Library is named, passed away at his home in Brentwood on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, at the age of 92.
During his time as mayor, Riordan oversaw not just the reopening of the Central Library but faced the crisis of rebuilding the city after the civil unrest of 1992 and a second time after the Northridge Earthquake of 1994. During his eight years in office, he shepherded major changes in the city’s charter, which included shifts in the accountability of department heads, and also created the neighborhood council system.
Born in New York and educated at Princeton and Michigan Law School, Riordan moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s and became a successful investor. He would become interested in public education and civic matters. He worked behind the scenes in politics until he ran for mayor in 1993 after Tom Bradley retired after five terms in office.
In retirement, Riordan worked with his own educational foundation as well as various businesses, most notably The Original Pantry restaurant.
Before Mayor Riordan left office due to term limits, the Library Board of Commissioners voted on April 19, 2001, to rename the Central Library as the Richard J. Riordan Central Library. Then Commission President David Lehrer cited "broad-based community support" and added, "Mayor Riordan has been an extraordinary supporter of the library during his two terms, both as mayor of the city and through his private foundation." The formal dedication for the name change took place on June 18, 2001.
Mayor Riordan, who had a large book collection of his own, replied, "I can’t think of anything that I would rather have named after me. I love books. I love libraries."
Here are some photos from the library's collection highlighting Riordan's love of the library and Los Angeles.
Portrait of Richard J. Riordan at the time he was Coliseum Commissioner, . Herald Examiner Collection
Richard Riordan posing with a football in the Coliseum, [n.d.]. Gary Leonard Collection
Mayor Richard Riordan and City Council member Rita Walters at a celebration in downtown Los Angeles. A very large cake representing the city is ready to be cut, . Gary Leonard Collection
Photographer Gary Leonard and former Mayor Richard Riordan ham it up at Antonio Villaraigosa's election party held at L.A. Center Studio. Richard J. Riordan served as Mayor of Los Angeles from 1993-2001. Gary Leonard has been a photojournalist for over thirty years, specializing in anything and everything in Southern California. Photo dated: May 17, . Photo credit: Gary McCarthy, Gary Leonard Collection
Portrait photograph of former Mayor of Los Angeles Richard Riordan and an unidentified group of five children in school uniforms taken by Gary Leonard in front of street artwork by Colette Miller for the Global Angel Wings Project. Located at the Regent Theatre on 448 South Main Street in downtown Los Angeles, . City of Angels Collection
Mayor Tom Bradley and Mayor Richard Riordan pose for cameras at the Democratic National Convention celebration held at Olvera Street, downtown Los Angeles, . Gary Leonard Collection
Photo of Mayor Richard Riordan, taken at Universal City Studios. He kisses the hand of one of the costumed characters at the studio. Leonard Collection
Portrait of Mayor Richard Riordan, taken at the Downtown News office in Los Angeles, . Gary Leonard Collection
Mayor Richard Riordan, taken at the mayor's yearly rap-up news conference held at City Hall East on December 21, . Gary Leonard Collection
Photo of Mayor Richard Riordan at Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle. The poster behind him reads, "Celebrate L.A. 2000, a new millennium" . Gary Leonard Collection
Mayor Riordan tries ice skating, at the ice skating rink in Pershing Square, . Gary Leonard Collection
Mayor Richard Riordan dances with Miss Olvera Street at the Democratic National Convention celebration held at The Plaza in Olvera Street, in Los Angeles, . Gary Leonard Collection
Mayor Richard J. Riordan is speaking, representing a group called "Citizens to Turn L.A. Around" . Gary Leonard Collection
Central Library reopening in October 1993. Photo credit: Gary Leonard
Mayor Richard Riordan with former BOLC member Rita Walters at the Central Library reopening in October 1993. Photo credit: Gary Leonard
Mayor Richard Riordan stands on Grand Avenue in front of the newly-constructed Bradley Wing of Central Library during the 1993 reopening celebration
Mayor Richard Riordan participates in reopening day festivities at Central Library in October 1993. Institutional Collection
Bill Gates and Mayor Richard Riordan open the Gates Center at Central Library, . Institutional Collection