October 11, 2021

Renaissance man Robert Riggs ’71 has spent a lifetime trying on new titles. Writer, podcaster, investigator, political correspondent and horse whisperer all fit him well, but no description fits quite like “storyteller.”

Riggs learned the art of storytelling from a young age. As a child, he would sit on his great-uncle's screened-in porch at a ranch on a lake in East Texas and listen to him tell tales.

“I loved when he would spin these yarns,” Riggs recalled. “He had packs of beagles, each of them named. At night, you would hear the beagles barking in the distance, on the chase of a raccoon or something. My great-uncle would narrate what was happening: ‘Now Old Red’s taking the lead. They just turned around that tree down in the pasture.’ He’d weave a vivid story for us. I just remember sitting there spellbound.”

That fascination with tales never faded. A winding path through architecture, politics and journalism eventually brought Riggs to true crime podcasting—a modern take on the campfire story in the dark.


Heading to the Hill

After graduation, Riggs sold his car for a one-way ticket to Washington, D.C. “My journalism career began with a little story about what appeared to be a third-rate burglary at the Watergate Offices of the Democratic National Committee,” he said.

The recent Aggie graduate had landed a job as a legislative aide with Congressman Wright Patman, the Dean of the House and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives. Shortly after Riggs arrived in the capitol, Patman launched the first investigation into the Watergate scandal, which later became the Watergate Committee.

Green on Capitol Hill, Riggs was often tasked with scouring the Library of Congress for information that might aid the investigation. He recalls searching through stacks of paper documents with a smile, remarking that the search would take several seconds and yield better results in the internet age. His dedication to the project led him to become Chief Investigator of the Joint Committee on Defense Production in 1974.

Riggs switched gears in 1976 to join the staff of Jimmy Carter’s first presidential campaign. Following the campaign, he set his sights on joining the broadcast news media after becoming enamored with the work of news correspondents during his involvement with the Watergate Investigation.

Two fellow Texans helped Riggs get a foothold in the industry. Bob Squier, who would later become a giant of political campaigns himself, coached Riggs on his on-camera delivery. Friend Bob Schieffer, a CBS correspondent and future primetime anchor, helped Riggs prepare audition tapes and make connections with movers and shakers in the industry.


Pivot to Podcasting

Never one to stay idle, Riggs continues to create new projects, podcasts and television programs. One current project is the podcast “True Crime Reporter,” hosted by Riggs and former federal prosecutor Bill Johnston. The duo uses four decades of field experience to pry into stories of murder and mystery, many of which happened right here in Texas.

“My interest in true crime was influenced by my late father, Stanley Riggs. He was a small businessman in Paris, Texas, and served as police commissioner,” Riggs shared. “When I was in high school, you could find an FBI Agent, Texas Ranger, State Trooper, the Sheriff and assorted police officers gathered at our kitchen table on Friday nights drinking coffee. During holiday breaks from Texas A&M, I would ride on patrol with local troopers so they had backup in the event of trouble.”

True Crime Reporter’s first season focused on notorious Texan serial killer Kenneth McDuff and is now being made into a documentary series. Riggs currently serves as the show’s executive producer and sees new production opportunities for true crime television on the horizon for himself and his team.

His earlier pivot into audio-only storytelling has proven a worthwhile endeavor. “People would tell me I had a voice for radio,” he said. As a Texan who has been on-air for much of his life, his voice is uniquely suited for weaving tales of true crime. His show was even featured on the first-ever live remote broadcast on Fireside Chat, a social audio platform co-founded by media mogul Mark Cuban and noted tech entrepreneur Falon Fatemi.

Throughout the changes in his career, Riggs’ chameleon-like adaptability has stayed an odd constant. Whether it was in a design studio as a college student or captivating listeners with a story over the airwaves, creativity is at the heart of all Riggs does. From a teenager fresh out of Paris, Texas, to a successful reporter at the height of his career, Riggs has been guided by truth, justice and the power of a good story.

To learn how you can help the College of Architecture develop other outstanding graduates like Riggs, contact Erik Baker, senior director of development, at the bottom of this page.

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