COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton said Monday that he picked Dick Riley to head his Education Department because of the former South Carolina governor's belief in expanding education opportunities for everyone.

"It was because I believed that the future of the country depended upon our ability to educate everyone," Clinton told more than 600 people gathered at a reception to celebrate the official opening of Riley's political collection at the University of South Carolina. "And I knew that he believed that ability is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not."

Clinton tapped Riley to serve as his secretary of Education, a post he held for all eight years of Clinton's administration. Before that, Riley also served on Clinton's White House transition team, as well as two terms as South Carolina's governor and more than a decade in the state Legislature.

During their joint time governing their respective states, Clinton said that he saw Riley's commitment to education clearly when South Carolina was the only state where improvement in education had surpassed that of Arkansas.

"I'd say he was lucky enough to serve in a place in time when people could respect what was magnificent about him," Clinton said of Riley, 85.

Curated for five years, the Richard W. Riley Collection includes thousands of photographs and speeches annotated with Riley's handwritten edits, as well as materials from Riley's campaigns and his efforts for others, including Clinton, former President Jimmy Carter and former Vice President Al Gore, according to the university. The "Richard W. Riley: Statesman of Education" exhibit opens Monday for public view in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library and will remain open through Dec. 23.

Thomas McNally, dean of the University of South Carolina's libraries, said the university had been since the 1990s collecting Riley's documents and items, including pair of cowboy boots, which he vowed not to remove until passage of key education legislation.

"That took a long time," University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides said Monday. "Governor, I hope you didn't sleep in those boots."

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