Ralph Wilson was the last surviving original owner of an AFL team, in this case, the Buffalo Bills. Mr. Wilson, who I had the pleasure of meeting when I headed the effort to bring the Super Bowl to Oakland, passed away at 95 years of age two weeks ago.
Wilson, like the late Kansas City Chiefs Owner Lamar Hunt, and the late Oakland Raiders Owner Al Davis, was a man who took chances. It was his business wheeling and dealing that gave rise to Ralph Wilson Industries, and when he learned that Lamar Hunt was going to enter the upstart American Football League and specifically to challenge the NFL, he joined in and after fits and starts, established the Buffalo Bills of Buffalo, New York.
“Ralph Wilson was a driving force in developing pro football into America’s most popular sport,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell observed. “He loved the game and took a chance on a start-up league in 1960 as a founding owner of the American Football League. He brought his beloved Bills to western New York and his commitment to the team’s role in the community set a standard for the NFL. As a trusted advisor to his fellow league owners and the commissioner, Ralph always brought a principled and common-sense approach to issues. His lifelong loyalty to the game was instrumental in his richly deserved induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We are grateful for his many contributions to the NFL and offer our heartfelt sympathy to the Wilson family.”
Wilson was the product of a can-do generation that fought the war and put a man on the Moon. One we may never see again.