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Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr. dies at 88

williamclayford Getty Images

William Clay Ford Sr., the longtime owner of the Detroit Lions, has died at the age of 88.

“It is with profound sadness that we mourn the loss of Mr. Ford and extend our deepest sympathies to Mrs. Ford and to the entire Ford family,” Lions President Tom Lewand said in a statement. “No owner loved his team more than Mr. Ford loved the Lions. Those of us who had the opportunity to work for Mr. Ford knew of his unyielding passion for his family, the Lions and the city of Detroit.”

Ford purchased the Lions in 1963 and oversaw their move out of the city from Tiger Stadium to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1975, and then oversaw their move back into downtown Detroit with the opening of Ford Field in 2002. Ford was the youngest son of Edsel Ford and the last surviving grandchild of Henry Ford, and he was the largest individual shareholder in Ford Motor Company.

Control of the Lions will presumably go to his son, William Clay Ford Jr., who has become increasingly active in the team in recent years. There is no reason to believe Bill Ford would make any immediate changes, but he developed a reputation for being more proactive than his father when his public criticism precipitated the ouster of team President Matt Millen in 2008.

Born March 14, 1925, William Clay Ford Sr. served in the Navy in World War II and married Martha Firestone of the family that owned the Firestone tire company in 1947. In addition to Bill Jr., William and Martha had three daughters.

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41 Responses to “Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr. dies at 88”
  1. thepftpoet says: Mar 9, 2014 1:09 PM

    R.I.P

    Condolences from a Viking fan.

  2. topcide says: Mar 9, 2014 1:09 PM

    My family on both sides were multi generational ford employees. I am the first in 3 generations to not work for them. I continue to be loyal to their cars now.

    I think that for the past few years that bill ford has been slowly taking the reigns of the lions, and that it has shown to some extent. While WCF had beennever afriad to spend money, he was patient to a fault, AKA matt millen era. And i think with his passing we really will see a shift in the direction of the lions.

    What’s funny is most people think of the lions of allways sucking, and while i genreally think that is true, the teams of the late 80′s and early 90′s really were in reallity pretty decent and just could never get over the hump.

    I’m not gonna speak ill of the dead – while I don’t think he has been the best owner with regards to hiring people to run his football team, when a member of the Ford passes it’s a big deal in the state of Michigan.

  3. thepftpoet says: Mar 9, 2014 1:11 PM

    Poor man never got to even see the Lions play in a Super Bowl.

  4. isphet71 says: Mar 9, 2014 1:14 PM

    Whoa….. As a long suffering Lions fan, out of respect I will only for now say Rest In Peace and thanks for all the years of service.

  5. ariani1985 says: Mar 9, 2014 1:15 PM

    God bless! Fords rule the highway! Thru bad times he still never offered fake stock to fleece the fans.

  6. deflateddome says: Mar 9, 2014 1:17 PM

    RIP Mr Ford

  7. lks311 says: Mar 9, 2014 1:18 PM

    Good man…but much to be desired as a owner. Too loyal, but seemingly very decent.

    And for all the Lions fans that complain about his stewardship, the man kept the Lions in Michigan and moved them back to Detroit—which has helped the resurgence of the downtown area. #RIP

  8. 1pwrightt says: Mar 9, 2014 1:19 PM

    Condolences from a Cardinals fan.

    Coming together is a beginning:
    Keeping together is progress:
    Working together is success

    Henry Ford

  9. thevikesarebest says: Mar 9, 2014 1:21 PM

    That’s unfortunate.

  10. f1restarter says: Mar 9, 2014 1:26 PM

    This Packer fan extends his sympathy to the Ford family and to the Lions organization.

  11. leatherface2012 says: Mar 9, 2014 1:27 PM

    r.i.p. sir. my own father passed away in december at 85. terrible thing to lose your dad at any age.

  12. bearshaterseverywhere says: Mar 9, 2014 1:30 PM

    RIP Mr. Ford

    All trolling aside, Sad day for Detroit. Much respect and condolences to our fellow NFC North contenders.

  13. jonestocarr says: Mar 9, 2014 1:37 PM

    RIP…and for the people complaining about his reign as owner on the day of his passing, get a grip. You might want to go talk to your therapist about your anger issues…the NFL is just a game.

  14. seatownballers says: Mar 9, 2014 1:37 PM

    Rip

  15. spartyownsyou says: Mar 9, 2014 1:38 PM

    The best thing that could ever possibly happen for the Lions would be for the Ford family to sell the team to competent owners. That will probably never happen. As long as they own the Lions we are doomed. Coaches and players come and go but they have been the one constant throughout my life and therefore I can only surmise that they are the problem.

  16. lnfinite says: Mar 9, 2014 1:39 PM

    RIP

  17. kabasaman says: Mar 9, 2014 1:39 PM

    Deepest sympathy to the Ford family.

  18. dartwick says: Mar 9, 2014 1:41 PM

    He seems like he was a nice guy – Im sure he meant to do well.

  19. bennyb82 says: Mar 9, 2014 1:43 PM

    RIP

  20. realnflmaster says: Mar 9, 2014 1:45 PM

    How many receivers did this guy draft?

  21. teal379 says: Mar 9, 2014 1:47 PM

    RIP to Mr. Ford.

    Fair winds and following seas to a fine Navy man as well.

  22. EJ says: Mar 9, 2014 1:48 PM

    My condolences go out to the Fans of the Detroit Lions. Owners may come and go, but great Owners like Mr. Ford only come around once in a while. I am sure the Ford name and Detroit have been paired many times in the past, but the name Ford will be forever linked to the Detroit Lions. RIP Mr. Ford.

  23. metrocritical says: Mar 9, 2014 1:49 PM

    It’s always sad when someone dies. It’s especially sad when a good person dies. One can’t help but sympathize for family and friends who mourn the death of a loved one. The situation here is no different with the death of William Clay Ford, the man, the father, the friend. In Detroit we can only hope that the era of foolishly stubborn ownership is finally over and long suffering fans will soon see smart, vigorous strides towards organizational excellence and a championship that has now eluded generations of Lion fans.

  24. blackandbluedivision says: Mar 9, 2014 1:51 PM

    I hate the Lions with every fiber of my being. But, RIP. My Condolences.

  25. icebowler says: Mar 9, 2014 1:56 PM

    RIP from a Packer fan. At least he had a great final thanksgiving last November.

  26. kd75 says: Mar 9, 2014 1:57 PM

    Ford married Firestone?

    How ironic.

    R.I.P

  27. jbarr1 says: Mar 9, 2014 2:03 PM

    Being a Upper Michigan Packer fan, I don’t like the Lions at all. However, Mr. Ford epitomized what NFL ( and all Team owners for the matter), should be. He flew under the radar. He certainly didn’t need the headlines like Jerry Jones, Mark Cuban and way too many others do. He let the team and the game be the headlines, not himself. RIP Billy.

  28. tooz72 says: Mar 9, 2014 2:18 PM

    RIP from a fan of french fries and burgers

  29. pappavike says: Mar 9, 2014 2:33 PM

    I was saddened to hear of the passing of Mr Ford. My Father in-law retired from the St. Paul Ford plant after thirty some odd years. This loss means more than a game!! My condolences to the Ford family!! God’s speed Mr Ford.

  30. gjdodger2 says: Mar 9, 2014 2:54 PM

    Sorry for his death, and he was a good and decent man, but I’m really curious what will happen from here on out. I always felt Senior exerted a lot more influence on payroll than people realized. Yes, he kept GMs on board for a ridiculously long time and let sycophants like Bill Keenist continue to draw a paycheck, but I also believe there were player personnel decisions that were made because Mr. Ford was unhappy about all the money being spent on first round draft choices. I have no evidence other than the bizarreness of the decisions. Think Drew Stanton.

  31. spartyownsyou says: Mar 9, 2014 3:04 PM

    Michigan resident x Packers fan = sellout

  32. fishyinalittledishy says: Mar 9, 2014 3:27 PM

    I have always wondered what if the Fords were not the Fords and were called Smith would the worlds most famous motor vehicles be a Model T Smith. Ford just seems so right. One of the worlds most iconic family names. RIP

  33. bonniebengal says: Mar 9, 2014 3:37 PM

    Rest in Peace.

  34. abiesbaby says: Mar 9, 2014 4:21 PM

    I first met WCF 50 years ago at a Detroit Lions Alumni picnic (my dad was the first equipment manager and then trainer of the Lions). Mr. Ford gave to all of the kids plastic model Ford toy cars. The man was class. And that’s the way he should be remembered. The Lions will be champions again. My condolences to Ford family and the entire Lions organization.

  35. ahs2 says: Mar 9, 2014 5:00 PM

    As far as owner Henry Clay Ford, I can only say he was loyal to a fault & could never be accused of being a tight wad or cheap in any way…as far as the future ownership of the team, Bill Ford Jr. is tenacious & unlike his father will see a Super Bowl during his lifetime…

  36. jamezz23 says: Mar 9, 2014 6:03 PM

    People don’t realize what him and his family past and present has meant to the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan.

    RIP Mr. Ford

  37. thelastpieceofcheese says: Mar 9, 2014 6:37 PM

    RIP Mr. Ford.

    Unfortunately, you were not able to break the Bobby Layne jinx.

    Hopefully, Billie will!

  38. thurstonblogging says: Mar 9, 2014 6:41 PM

    Let’s get this family a Super Bowl win for the old man.

  39. kane337 says: Mar 9, 2014 9:24 PM

    RIP Mr. Ford from a Falcons fan

  40. mgmac says: Mar 10, 2014 9:54 AM

    RIP.
    F Series trucks – the best and most successful line of pickup trucks in history

  41. wisconsinhillfolk says: Mar 10, 2014 11:02 AM

    That’s a nice long life. Also, someone should check on Ralph Wilson.

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