Hon. William Jay Riley
March 11, 1947 – January 27, 2023
VISITATION: Friday, February 3rd, 5-7pm, at West Center Chapel. SERVICE: Saturday, February 4th, 11am, at St. Luke United Methodist Church, 11810 Burke St.
Interment: Wyuka Cemetery, Lincoln, Nebraska.
In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests donations to the Rocky Mountain Conservancy (https://rmconservancy.org/join-or-give/), Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org), or a charity of your choice.
To view a live broadcast of the service, go to www.heafeyheafey.com and click the “View Live Cast” button.
William Jay Riley was born March 11, 1947, in Lincoln, Nebraska, and entered into rest at 9:37pm on Friday, January 27, 2023. Preceded in death by his parents, Donald and Marian Riley, and his oldest son, Brian Riley. Survived by wife, Norma Riley; children, Kevin Riley and Erin (Rich) Hoffman; daughter-in-law Brenda Riley; grandchildren: Michael (Courtney) Riley, Jacob Riley, Elizabeth, Benjamin, Brandon, and Katherine Hoffman, Heather and Tabitha Whitehill, and Makenzie Allen.
He married Norma Mason more than 57 years ago in a love story for the ages. They had three children: Brian Riley, Kevin Riley, and Erin Hoffman. He was father-in-law to Brenda Riley and Rich Hoffman and a proud grandfather to 9 grandchildren: Michael Riley, Jacob Riley, Elizabeth Hoffman, Ben Hoffman, Brandon Hoffman, Katherine Hoffman, Heather Whitehill, Tabitha Whitehill, and Makenzie Allen. And just last year, he was thrilled to meet his first great-grandchild, Bailee Jean Riley.
After a highly successful academic and athletic career, he graduated from Lincoln High School later to be inducted into their alumni hall of fame for his career achievements. He attended the University of Nebraska to earn his undergraduate and his law degree, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Order of the Coif and was editor-in-chief of the Nebraska Law Review.
Following law school, he clerked for Judge Donald P. Lay of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit from 1972 to 1973. William then began a 28-year career as a premier civil trial attorney with Fitzgerald, Schorr, Barmettler & Brennan in Omaha, where he was a shareholder and headed the firm’s trial department.
In 1980, William was asked to take over as Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 444. He said he would do it for one year so they could find someone else. 10 years later and 25+ Eagle Scouts later, he retired as Scoutmaster with a vast amount of stories and memories. Late in life, he would comment that these were some of the best times of his life. After retiring, he would serve as Chairman of the Mid-American Council for 3 years.
In 2001, he was nominated by President George W. Bush to succeed Judge C. Arlen Beam on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate two months later and received his commission on August 3, 2001. He served as Chief Judge of the Eighth Circuit from April 1, 2010, until March 10, 2017, and assumed senior status on June 30, 2017.
Judge Riley was a fellow and past state chair with the American College of Trial Lawyers, a member and former state president of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and a counselor and charter member of the Robert M. Spire Inns of Court. He was a former president and executive council member of the Omaha Bar Association, House Delegate and former Ethics Committee chair with the Nebraska State Bar Association, and chair of the Federal Practice Committee for Nebraska. He was Board Certified in Civil Trial Advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and has been an adjunct professor in trial practice at Creighton University School of Law and in trial advocacy at the University of Nebraska College of Law.
After assuming senior status, William enjoyed his retirement by taking long walks (and big meals) with the Grazers International Hiking Club, watching his grandchildren’s activities, and traveling with Norma. He was a fervent and ever-hopeful fan of the Nebraska Cornhuskers and attended most home games. And until the cancer arrived, he could be found hiking up mountains and forging through streams, often singing all the way or bicycling around Omaha unless hindered by a bike-related injury. A consummate storyteller with a kernel of truth and a lot of embellishments made for grand entertainment around any gathering or campfire. Most of all, he enjoyed spending time with family, friends, and anyone who wanted a tour.