Ralph Wilson, 1918-2014

03/25/2014

Pro Football Hall of Famer Ralph C. Wilson died today at the age of 95. The founder and longtime owner of the Buffalo Bills, he was also one of the original founders of the American Football League.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ralph Wilson” stated Hall of Fame President David Baker. “His impact on the Game is immeasurable. His leadership and commitment helped steer the course of history at a time when the sport was positioned to explode across this country.
 
“On behalf of the entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family, we extend our deepest condolences to Ralph’s wife Mary Wilson, the Bills community of fans and all who love the game of football on the loss of such a great man and a Hall of Famer for the ages." said Baker.
 
Wilson’s legacy is cemented in Canton. His bronze bust has resided in the Hall of Fame Gallery since his enshrinement in 2009 and his name is prominently attached to the Hall’s state-of-the-art archives. The Ralph Wilson, Jr. Pro Football Research and Preservation Center was christened in 2012. Wilson was on hand for the grand opening of the historical archives.

As a member of the AFL’s “Foolish Club,” Wilson ignored the unlikely odds of competing against the established National Football League. He was instrumental in the success of the young league that launched in 1960. His Bills teams captured back-to-back AFL championships in 1964 and 1965 while Wilson guided the fledgling league through its early years by making tough decisions to help the AFL survive.

More recently, under Wilson’s guidance, Buffalo recorded 103 wins during the 1990s, the most of any AFC team and only second to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL during that decade. Highlights of that era included a historic run of four consecutive AFC championships as the Bills remain the only team ever to make four straight Super Bowl appearances.

Throughout his longtime tenure as a NFL owner, Wilson gained respect as “the voice of reason” among team owners. A former President of the AFL, Wilson served on the Expansion Committee of that league and the AFL-NFL Negotiations Committee. He was also prominent in the negotiations, which resulted in a 1977 agreement between the NFL Management Council and the NFL Players Association.

Once described as the “conscience” of the NFL, Wilson has also served as the Chairman of NFL Pension Committee and Labor Committee, the Board of NFL Charities, the Super Bowl Site Selection Committee, and the NFL’s Expansion Committee.

Wilson possessed a deep respect and love for the game’s history. In a generous gesture, he donated $2.5 million to the Pro Football Hall of Fame to help preserve the game’s past with the creation of a spectacular archive that houses the world’s largest collection related to pro football.

View Ralph Wilson Jr.'s photo gallery>>>
See highlights of Ralph Wilson Jr.'s Enshrinement speech>>>

Wilson, Jr., Ralph, Buffalo Bills
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