It’s a sad day for the NFL and the fans of the Buffalo Bills. The team’s longtime owner and founder, Ralph Wilson, has passed away at the age of 95.
The announcement of his passing was made at the NFL owners meeting on Tuesday by team president Russ Brandon.
“I speak for everyone within the Bills organization when I say that we are all suffering a deep and profound sadness with the passing of our Hall of Fame owner Mr. Wilson,” Brandon said. “We have lost our founder, our mentor, our friend, and this is a very difficult time for us all. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Mary, his daughters Christy and Dee Dee (Edith), his niece Mary and his entire family….”
Wilson had actually been a minority owner in the Detroit Lions when he heard that Lamar Hunt was thinking of forming a league to compete with the NFL. At first he tried to get a team together in Miami, but when that fell through he tried again in Buffalo. His team, the Bills, officially became a part of the AFL on October 28, 1959.
During his time as owner he was never able to see his team win a Super Bowl, but the Bills did make the Super Bowl for four straight seasons (1990-933). The Bills did win a pair of AFL championships in 1964 and ’65. In 2009 he was inducted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. At the time of his passing he was the longest tenured owner in the NFL (54 years).
He has had some health issues in recent years. He missed his first home opener in 2011 due to a broken hip after taking a hard fall at home. An infection caused him to be hospitalized in August and September of 2012; he missed the entire season that year. He passed away peacefully at home with his wife and daughters by his side.
Wilson is the third longtime owner to pass away in the last year. A few weeks ago Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford passed away at the age of 88. Last October Tennessee Titans Bud Adams passed; he was 90.[H/T NFL, USAToday]