By Kristine Favreau and Joyce May
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – Although not born in Copperas Cove, Coryell County Judge Riley Simpson served his adopted community as well as any native son. On Monday, that community lost not only a son but a leader, provider, friend and a man who has been called, above all else, a true gentlemen.
Simpson, 63, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, died Monday afternoon.
"The doctor had given him a few weeks to live. We went over there to visit and just hoped the doctor had just been acting on the side of caution," longtime friend Linda Ledger said Monday. "Sadly, that wasn't the case."
For Ledger, the loss of Simpson is the loss of a person whom she said is the epitome of uncompromising integrity.
"Riley was someone who always, without question, did the right thing," she said. "He was very bright and clever, but never at the expense of another person."
At the time of his death, Simpson was the Coryell County judge. He was elected to the position in November 2006 following a career in private practice as well as serving as Copperas Cove's city attorney from 1969 until 1996. Simpson was elected district attorney for Coryell County in 1997 and retired in December 2004.
"There are a lot of things I'd like to be remembered for," said Les Ledger. "One of those being that I am responsible for helping Riley Simpson find Copperas Cove."
Upon learning of the death of his longtime friend, Ledger lowered the Texas flag that he proudly flies above his home.
"If I could have designed the perfect friend, he would have been one step below Riley Simpson," Ledger said. "He was a good man and a good friend, and I am struggling right now."
Born in Mobile, Ala., Simpson moved to Texas in 1964 to attend the University of Texas Law School in Austin, where he met the Ledgers, and his wife, Mikki.
Simpson moved to the Copperas Cove area in 1967, where he and his family planted their roots. For two years he taught at Avenue E Junior High School, which is the present-day C.R. Clements Intermediate School in Copperas Cove.
"Once he had saved enough money, he opened his first office here in Cove," Ledger said. "There is no telling how much free legal work Riley did for local organizations and individuals who needed it."
His profession wasn't the only way Simpson contributed to the community. He was active in the public sector for years, belonged to various community organizations such as the Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce and the Central Texas College Board of Trustees. He served as the CTC board's president for nearly six years. He was a charter member of the Morning Exchange Club and served as president for the Chamber of Commerce in 1972.
"Where I first saw Riley was in the courtroom in Gatesville. He seemed so very intimidating to me," said current Cove chamber president Marty Smith. "Then, when I got to know him, I realized he was truly a real gentlemen. You don't meet many men like him anymore."
Simpson, whose father was a small-town Baptist preacher, was also active in his church, teaching Sunday school and leading a senior Bible study class. He also enjoyed reading the Bible and biblical literature.
"I think that most people in Cove have forgotten, or never knew that Riley wasn't raised here because he always served his community so well," Ledger said. "I think that some of his desire to serve his community and the people in it stemmed from his background and his strong ties to his faith."
County Commissioner Jack Wall previously was appointed by the court to serve as acting judge in the event that Simpson was unable to perform his duties. He will serve in the position until someone is appointed to fill the remainder of Simpson's term.
Services for Simpson are pending with Sheppard Funeral Home in Copperas Cove.