— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) March 25, 2014
BBD Assistant Editor: Ryan Talbot
The Buffalo Bills lost the only owner they’ve ever known Tuesday, when Ralph Wilson Jr. passed away at the age of 95.
In a team statement, which can be read in its entirety on BuffaloBills.com, Bills team president and CEO Russ Brandon described Wilson as the team’s founder, mentor and friend.
“I speak for everyone within the Bills organization when I say that we are all suffering a deep and profound sadness with the passing of our Hall of Fame owner Mr. Wilson.”
Wilson founded the Buffalo Bills in 1959 and had been their owner ever since. Originally a minority owner of the Detroit Lions, Wilson decided to go all-in on a new league being founded by Lamar Hunt, the American Football League. “Count me in with Buffalo,” Wilson famously remarked in a telegram to Hunt.
One of the AFL’s eight original owners, his work went above and beyond being a team owner. Wilson handled television negotiations for the AFL, and was also a prominent figure in the AFL-NFL merger.
Wilson died as the last surviving member of the AFL’s original ownership, and was the league’s longest-tenured owner.
Wilson brought football to Buffalo and kept it in the city despite having the opportunity to move the team to Seattle in the 1970s.
The city of Buffalo should forever be grateful to Mr. Wilson for bringing major league sport to the city.
With Wilson as the leader, the Bills won back-to-back AFL Championships in 1964 and 1965, then won four consecutive AFC Championships from 1990-1993. The Bills lost all four of those Super Bowl appearances.
Wilson, who also served for the United States in World War II, was honored for his accomplishments in football as a member of the 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame class. The Bills’ stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., was named in Wilson’s honor in 1998.