Tom Riley founded the Tom Riley Law Firm in 1980. The mission of the firm is to seek justice for those who have been injured or damaged by the wrongful acts of others. With this focus, the firm has grown from three lawyers at the time of its founding to its present size with offices in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa. Over the years, the Tom Riley Law Firm has represented thousands of clients and obtained more than $300,000,000 in recoveries on their behalf.
Tom was born January 9, 1929 in Cedar Rapids to Joseph W. Riley and Edna Kyle Riley. He attended Garfield Elementary School and Franklin Junior and Senior High School. After graduation, he entered the University of Iowa and was a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, receiving his BA in 1950 and graduating from Law School in 1952. While at the University he met and married Nancy (Nan) Evans in 1952.
Following Law School, he received a commission as a 1st Lieutenant in the Judge Advocate General Corp of the U.S. Air Force. While Tom was stationed in Texas and Alabama, he saw first hand the plight of African-Americans in the South. This confirmed his lifelong dedication to equal rights for all Americans.
Upon discharge from active duty in the Air Force, Tom returned to Cedar Rapids and joined the law firm of Simmons, Perrine, Albright, Ellwood and Neff, becoming a partner in 1960. During that time Tom was active in the Jaycees and the Linn County Mental Health Association.
In 1960 Tom ran for public office and was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives. At the end of his first term he was selected as the Outstanding Freshman Legislator by the Iowa Press and Radio Club. He was re-elected to the House in 1962. Tom ran for the State Senate in 1964, and was the only Republican in Linn County to win election and survive a Democratic landslide. Tom was one of the most active members of the Iowa Legislature, serving as Chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Aging and on the Commission to Reform Iowa’s Court System. While a State Legislator Tom sponsored many important bills that became laws, such as equal representation in state reapportionment, the fair housing law, and outlawing discrimination in employment due to age, race, religion, or national origin. Tom was unsuccessful in his runs for Congress.
Throughout his legislative service he continued to practice law. After leaving politics Tom taught trial advocacy with the Chicago-based Court Practices Institute and taught trial advocacy as an adjunct professor at the Iowa Law School. Tom was a highly sought-after speaker at state and national continuing legal education seminars.
Founding of Tom Riley Law Firm
In 1980 he established the Tom Riley Law Firm. In 1982 he won a verdict against Procter & Gamble for the death of a young Cedar Rapids woman who died of Toxic Shock Syndrome after using Rely tampons. This case and others made national news.
As much as Tom loved practicing law, he was happiest at home in the company of his wife and children. Though he and Nan loved to travel together, his favorite trips involved the whole family. Through weddings and births that family eventually grew to 27 members.
Tom never had formal courses in art, but he had a collector’s eye and knew what he liked. Among those things were antiquities, especially busts of both famous and anonymous Romans. This collection was donated to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art in 1996. In the summer of 2010 the Riley collection of paintings and prints was shown at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art in an exhibition that pleased him beyond expectation.
Tom was generous in his donations to other philanthropic institutions. He has endowed scholarships to Coe College and Kirkwood College and sponsored art work and exhibitions at the African American Museum and the History Center. Camp Courageous was a favored charity to which he gave several camp facilities. He generously supported the work of American Cancer Society and Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, diseases which have touched his family.
Tom wrote four books: Response to Crisis (1968), Proving Punitive Damages (1981), The Price of a Life (1986) and Iowa’s Civil Litigation Handbook (1997) as well as numerous articles on law and politics. He also collaborated with Nan on From Cooks Pond to Lakeside, a Pictorial History which is sold at the History Center and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art with all proceeds going to those institutions.
Tom was a member of the American and Iowa Associations for Justice (Formerly ATLA and ITLA), and a member of the Linn county and Iowa State Bar Associations. He also belonged to the First Presbyterian Church of Cedar Rapids, The President’s Club and Kinnick society of the University of Iowa, the Cedar Rapids Country Club, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, the African American Museum, and the Castelfusano Country Club of Rome, Italy.