Detroit, MI
2014

Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.

Detroit, MI
2014
Football

Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. grew up in Detroit, Michigan and lived primarily in Southeast Michigan his entire life. He was as an American businessman and sports executive, best known as the founder and owner of the Buffalo Bills, in the National Football League (NFL). He was one of the founding owners of the American Football League (AFL), the league with which the NFL merged in 1970, and was the last of the original AFL owners to own his team. Wilson was also a former part-owner of the Detroit Lions and was a guiding force in AFL policies that ensured the success of the league, such as gate and television revenue sharing. As one of three AFL owners to be on solid financial ground, Wilson lent the Oakland Raiders $400,000 and was willing to make similar loans to the New England Patriots. He helped keep those franchises afloat, likely saving the entire league. Wilson stipulated that the Bills be sold after his death and the money used to fund philanthropic efforts in both Detroit and Buffalo. Charities in Michigan and Western New York have received more than $100 million dollars from the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. At the time of his death in, 2014 at 95, he was the oldest owner in the NFL, and the third-longest tenured owner in NFL history.