AKRON-Richard A. Riley, 79, the man who headed Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. during the massive ``Firestone 500'' recall of 1978, died Feb. 28 of a heart attack or stroke at the Manor Care Nursing Home in Akron. Mr. Riley spent his entire 43-year career with Firestone after joining its subsidiary, Firestone Fall River Latex Co., as an accountant in 1939.
In 1970 he was appointed to the board of directors, becoming president of Firestone Tire & Rubber two years later. In 1973 he became CEO as well.
While in the top post, he oversaw the largest tire recall in U.S. history when Firestone agreed with the National Highway & Traffic Safety Administration to recall 7.5 million radial ``500'' tires. In announcing the recall, Mr. Riley said the tires had no safety defect but Firestone agreed to the recall to show ``customers we are interested in their welfare.''
NHTSA investigated the tire based on high adjustment rates and information implicating the tires in 41 fatalities.
He became chairman of the company in September, 1980, and retired six months later. He remained on the board of directors until Feb. 16, 1982.
Survivors include son, Richard; daughter, Janet Altenau; two brothers; and a sister.