William Clay Ford Sr., owner of the Detroit Lions since November 1963, has died. He was 88.
Ford’s health has been in failing in recent years.
The 2013 season was his 50th as owner. Along the way Ford has been intensely loyal to coaches and general managers that he’s hired to run the team. Even though fans were ready to see Matt Millen go after a season or two, Ford kept him on for eight years. It was consistent with the way he had run the team through the years.
This loyalty has not always endeared him to Lions’ fans who have seen their team win just one playoff game during his tenure as owner.
Yet Ford is well respected by the NFL and by former Lions’ players.
His son William Clay Ford Jr., is the Lions’ vice chairman and has an active role in the running of the franchise. He was involved in the decision to hire coach Jim Caldwell. Ford Sr., was unable to attend the Caldwell introductory press conference on Jan. 22. He was represented by his son.
After building Ford Field, Ford was named the Michiganian of the Year by the Detroit News in 2003 for bringing the Lions back to Detroit. He was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
Until the past few summers, Ford would attend training camp in Allen Park riding around in a golf cart built to resemble a blue Ford Mustang.
Ford’s interest in the team grew from when his father Edsel Ford took him to see the Lions at the University of Detroit Stadium in 1934, their first season in Detroit.
Prior to purchasing the franchise he had been a club director in 1956 and was asked by then Lions president Edwin J. Anderson to become the Lions president in 1961.
He was the last surviving grandchild of Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company. He retired from the board of directors in 2005 after 57 years of service, but remained director emeritus.