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Ralph Wilson

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Ralph Cookerly Wilson Jr.
Date of birth October 17 1918 (1918-10-17) (age 95)
Place of birth Columbus, Ohio
Career Stats
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Team(s) as a coach/administrator
1960-Present Buffalo Bills
Pro Football Hall of Fame, 2009

Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. (born October 17, 1918) is the founder, owner and president of NFL's Buffalo Bills. He was one of the founding owners of the American Football League, the league that the NFL merged with in 1970. He is the oldest owner in the National Football League, at age 95. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 8, 2009.

BiographyEdit

Wilson grew up in Detroit, Michigan, graduated from the University of Virginia and attended the University of Michigan Law School. At the University of Virginia he joined the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He is a World War II veteran. After the war ended, he took over the successful insurance business of his father and invested in Michigan area mines and factories. He eventually purchased several manufacturing outlets, construction firms, and radio stations, and founded Ralph Wilson Industries.

A minority owner of the Detroit Lions, Wilson got wind of Lamar Hunt's plans for a new league, the American Football League, to challenge the NFL. He tried to put together a team in Miami, but was turned down. His next choice was Buffalo. In September 1959, Wilson sent Hunt a telegram with the words, "Count me in with Buffalo." He named his new team the Bills, after a previous team that had played in the All-America Football Conference from 1946 to 1949. On October 28, 1959 the Buffalo Bills officially became the seventh AFL team. Wilson made Professional Football a resounding success in a "small market," signing such stars as Cookie Gilchrist, Jack Kemp, Orenthal James "O. J." Simpson' and Tom Sestak and Hall of Famer Billy Shaw.

He was a guiding force in AFL policies that ensured success, such as gate and television revenue sharing. As one of only three AFL owners to be on relatively solid financial ground (along with Hunt and Bud Adams), Wilson lent the financially troubled Oakland Raiders $400,000 and was also willing to loan money to Billy Sullivan of the Patriots. Wilson helped keep those franchises afloat, likely saving the entire league from folding. In November 1963, Wilson lobbied successfully to have AFL games postponed the Sunday after President John F. Kennedy's assassination; NFL games were played as scheduled.

After the original naming rights deal on the Bills' current stadium expired in 1998, the facility's name was changed from Rich Stadium to Ralph Wilson Stadium. According to an article on msn.com, Wilson, described as "stubborn", has turned down numerous naming rights deals for the stadium. [1]

Wilson continues to be one of the league's most outspoken owners. He was one of only two owners (the Cincinnati Bengals' Mike Brown being the other) to oppose the league's current collective bargaining agreement. He also negotiated a deal to have his team play home games in Toronto beginning in 2008.

Wilson maintains a permanent residence in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan with his wife, Mary. He has three daughters, two of whom became involved in team business. Linda Bogdan (1948–2009), Pro Football's first female scout, was the franchise's Corporate Vice President up until her death. Another daughter, Christy Wilson Hofmann, currently serves as a consultant in the area of merchandising. The third daughter, Edith Wilson, is not involved with the franchise.

Wilson broke his hip in a fall at his home in July 2011, causing him to miss the Bills' home opener for the first time in franchise history. He issued a statement saying that he was undergoing physical therapy and hoped to attend at least one game during the season. Wilson also stated that he was "very surprised" at the team's 41-7 victory over Kansas City in Week 1.

Ralph Wilson is a 1992 inductee of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

Pro Football Hall of FameEdit

On January 31, 2009, Ralph Wilson was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with former Buffalo Bills great Bruce Smith. Joining the two legendary Buffalo Bills icons in Canton for enshrinement are defensive back Rod Woodson, offensive lineman Randall McDaniel, wide receiver Bob Hayes, and linebacker Derrick Thomas. The Hall of Fame game, played the day after the 2009 inductions, strayed from the usual AFC-NFC format and instead was contested by two original American Football League teams: the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers). This matchup was announced after Wilson was elected. The Titans' owner, Bud Adams, is also the only owner his team has ever had, and the two are the only living members of the "Foolish Club", the founders of the original eight AFL teams. Wilson and Adams are the two of only three men who have owned a Professional Football franchise continuously for fifty years (George Halas, who owned the Chicago Bears from 1920 until his death in 1983, is the third). The Hall of Fame game on Sunday, August 9, was a kickoff to the 2009 season, which would have been the 50th season of play for the AFL, if the NFL had not merged with it. However, the Buffalo Bills will be celebrating 50 years of playing professional football in Buffalo during the 2009 season. Mr. Wilson was officially inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, August 8, 2009 with ESPN Sports icon Chris Berman acting as his "presenter". Wilson was scheduled to receive his Hall of Fame ring in a halftime ceremony during the Bills game against the Cleveland Browns on October 11, 2009.[2] However, Wilson cancelled the event at the last moment, without notifying the press or fans, and no explanation was given. It was widely speculated that Wilson cancelled the event out of fear of being booed by Bills fans for the team's chronic poor performance on the field and a series of highly unpopular managerial decisions.[3]

Thoroughbred racingEdit

Ralph Wilson has also been involved for a number of years in the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing both as a breeder and as an owner in France and the United States. He notably bred Santa Anita Derby winner, Jim French as well as two-year-old European susperstar Arazi, winner of the 1991 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and European Horse of the Year. [4] Another horse, Outta Here, raced in the 2003 Kentucky Derby and finished in seventh place.

After Wilson's deathEdit

After Ralph Wilson dies, Jim Kelly will be part-owner of the Buffalo Bills. Kelly will try to keep the Bills in Buffalo.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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