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1
Voice of the Bills: Ralph Wilson
Voice of the Bills: Ralph Wilson's committment to Buffalo never wavered
::2014/03/26::
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2
Ralph Wilson Jr. induction vignette - Chris Berman
Ralph Wilson Jr. induction vignette - Chris Berman
::2009/10/12::
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3
Silver: Bills likely to be sold after passing of Ralph Wilson Jr.
Silver: Bills likely to be sold after passing of Ralph Wilson Jr.
::2014/03/26::
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4
Bills players remember Ralph WIlson Jr.
Bills players remember Ralph WIlson Jr.
::2014/03/26::
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5
Remembering Ralph C. Wilson
Remembering Ralph C. Wilson
::2014/03/25::
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6
Ralph Wilson, Jr.
Ralph Wilson, Jr.'s Hall of Fame Induction Speech
::2014/03/26::
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7
NFL: Bills founder Ralph Wilson passes away
NFL: Bills founder Ralph Wilson passes away
::2014/03/25::
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8
Poloncarz speaks about loss of Ralph Wilson
Poloncarz speaks about loss of Ralph Wilson
::2014/03/25::
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9
Shout Song - a tribute to Ralph Wilson
Shout Song - a tribute to Ralph Wilson
::2014/03/26::
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10
Ralph C. Wilson 1998
Ralph C. Wilson 1998
::2013/10/17::
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11
Founder of Bills, Ralph Wilson Jr. dead at 95
Founder of Bills, Ralph Wilson Jr. dead at 95
::2014/03/25::
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12
Ralph Wilson, Buffalo Bills owner, dies at 95
Ralph Wilson, Buffalo Bills owner, dies at 95
::2014/03/26::
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13
Inside Look into Ralph Wilson Stadium
Inside Look into Ralph Wilson Stadium
::2013/01/30::
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14
Remembering Ralph Wilson Jr.
Remembering Ralph Wilson Jr.
::2014/03/26::
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15
NFL owners reflect on Ralph Wilson
NFL owners reflect on Ralph Wilson
::2014/03/25::
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16
Ralph Wilson Tribute
Ralph Wilson Tribute
::2013/12/17::
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17
Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson passes away
Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson passes away
::2014/03/25::
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18
Bills Owner Ralph Wilson prevents blackout in Buffalo
Bills Owner Ralph Wilson prevents blackout in Buffalo
::2013/10/13::
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19
Former players swap stories at Ralph Wilson memorial
Former players swap stories at Ralph Wilson memorial
::2014/04/05::
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20
RIP Ralph Wilson 1918-2014
RIP Ralph Wilson 1918-2014
::2014/03/25::
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21
Spiller vows to keep promise to Ralph Wilson Jr.
Spiller vows to keep promise to Ralph Wilson Jr.
::2014/03/26::
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22
Buffalo Bills Tailgate Party vs. New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium November 6th, 2011
Buffalo Bills Tailgate Party vs. New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium November 6th, 2011
::2011/11/09::
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23
Ralph Wilson 1918 2014
Ralph Wilson 1918 2014
::2014/04/10::
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24
Ralph Wilson Jr
Ralph Wilson Jr
::2014/03/28::
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25
Ralph Wilson on 12/19/10 after Bills beat Miami
Ralph Wilson on 12/19/10 after Bills beat Miami
::2013/09/14::
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26
Ralph Wilson Stadium
Ralph Wilson Stadium
::2013/04/22::
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27
What Ralph Wilson
What Ralph Wilson's Death Means for the Buffalo Bills
::2014/03/26::
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28
Ralph Wilson dies at 95
Ralph Wilson dies at 95
::2014/03/25::
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29
Ralph Wilson, Buffalo Bills owner, dies at 95
Ralph Wilson, Buffalo Bills owner, dies at 95
::2014/03/26::
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30
Ralph Wilson Stadium
Ralph Wilson Stadium
::2013/04/21::
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31
Ralph Wilson Stadium in Minecraft!!!
Ralph Wilson Stadium in Minecraft!!!
::2011/09/04::
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32
Tour of Ralph Wilson Stadium -- 2014
Tour of Ralph Wilson Stadium -- 2014
::2014/03/25::
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33
RALPH WILSON STADIUM  Anniversary 2003
RALPH WILSON STADIUM Anniversary 2003
::2011/04/18::
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34
Rapoport: Robert Kraft reacts strongly to passing of Ralph Wilson Jr.
Rapoport: Robert Kraft reacts strongly to passing of Ralph Wilson Jr.
::2014/03/26::
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35
Ralph Wilson - Rest in Peace
Ralph Wilson - Rest in Peace
::2014/03/25::
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36
Ralph Wilson Stadium
Ralph Wilson Stadium
::2013/03/23::
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37
NAVY LEAP FROGS RALPH WILSON STADIUM 2012
NAVY LEAP FROGS RALPH WILSON STADIUM 2012
::2012/09/18::
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38
Bob Koshinski and Rick Azar Remembering Ralph Wilson, Jr.
Bob Koshinski and Rick Azar Remembering Ralph Wilson, Jr.
::2014/03/25::
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39
Battista: Ralph Wilson Jr. was an NFL pioneer
Battista: Ralph Wilson Jr. was an NFL pioneer
::2014/03/26::
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40
Ralph Wilson Remembered a Tribute
Ralph Wilson Remembered a Tribute
::2014/03/25::
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41
Football Fan falls from Upper Deck at Ralph Wilson Stadium (Jets v Bills)
Football Fan falls from Upper Deck at Ralph Wilson Stadium (Jets v Bills)
::2013/11/18::
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42
Owners react to Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr s passin
Owners react to Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr s passin
::2014/03/26::
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43
Ralph Wilson Jr. speech Pro Football Research and Preservation Center dedication...mov
Ralph Wilson Jr. speech Pro Football Research and Preservation Center dedication...mov
::2012/08/04::
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44
Senator Gallivan Stands to acknowledge the contributions of Ralph C. Wilson Jr.
Senator Gallivan Stands to acknowledge the contributions of Ralph C. Wilson Jr.
::2014/03/27::
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45
Buffalo Bills Owner Ralph Wilson Jr. Passes Away At 95 Discussion
Buffalo Bills Owner Ralph Wilson Jr. Passes Away At 95 Discussion
::2014/03/25::
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46
NFL Network at Ralph Wilson Stadium for Bills vs Dolphins
NFL Network at Ralph Wilson Stadium for Bills vs Dolphins
::2012/11/18::
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47
Quest for 31 Stadium #1 Ralph Wilson Stadium
Quest for 31 Stadium #1 Ralph Wilson Stadium
::2009/05/08::
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48
Casserly: People of Buffalo are indebted to Ralph Wilson Jr.
Casserly: People of Buffalo are indebted to Ralph Wilson Jr.
::2014/03/26::
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49
NHL 2K10 - Winter Classic at Ralph WIlson Stadium Period 1
NHL 2K10 - Winter Classic at Ralph WIlson Stadium Period 1
::2009/09/20::
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50
NFL Time Lapse - Ralph Wilson Stadium - Orchard Park, NY
NFL Time Lapse - Ralph Wilson Stadium - Orchard Park, NY
::2010/10/05::
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Ralph Wilson
Ralph Wilson 1961.jpg
Wilson in 1961
Date of birth: (1918-10-17)October 17, 1918
Place of birth: Columbus, Ohio, United States
Date of death: March 25, 2014(2014-03-25) (aged 95)
Place of death: Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan
Career information
Position(s): Owner
College: Virginia
University of Michigan
Organizations
As owner:
1959–2014 Buffalo Bills
Career highlights and awards
Military service
Allegiance: United States United States
Service/branch: United States Navy seal U.S. Navy
Years of service: 1941–1946
Battles/wars: World War II

Ralph Cookerly Wilson, Jr. (October 17, 1918 – March 25, 2014) was the founder and owner 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, and was the last of the original AFL owners to own his team. At the time of his death he was the oldest owner in the National Football League, at age 95, and the second-longest tenured owner in NFL history (over 54 years, second only to the 63 years George Halas owned the Chicago Bears). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 8, 2009.

Early career[edit]

Wilson grew up in Detroit, Michigan, the son of salesman Ralph Wilson Sr. and his wife, Edith Cole (reputedly the first woman in the state of Michigan to hold a driver's license).[1]

He 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. During World War II, he enlisted in the United States Navy and served in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theater.[2] 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, and Tom Sestak and Hall of Famers Billy Shaw and O. J. Simpson.

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 lend money to Billy Sullivan of the Patriots. Wilson helped keep those franchises afloat, likely saving the entire league from folding (the AFL was unique among professional football leagues in that not a single AFL franchise folded in its history). 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", turned down numerous naming rights deals for the stadium.[3]

Wilson was one of the league's most outspoken owners, even near the end of his life. Wilson voted against the Cleveland Browns' relocation to Baltimore in 1995. He publicly rebuked NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in an open letter in 1998 over league policy, which disallowed criticism of referees, after poor officiating had a direct impact on a Bills loss that season.[4] He was one of only two owners (the Cincinnati Bengals' Mike Brown being the other) to oppose the league's former (pre-2011) collective bargaining agreement. (Wilson and Brown were commended for their foresight when the agreement later led to the 2011 NFL Lockout.) He also negotiated a deal to have his team play home games in Toronto beginning in 2008.

Wilson retired from the position of president in 2001, giving operational control to General Manager Tom Donahoe; Wilson retook control of the team's operations in 2006. Wilson again retired as team president, this time surrendering all control of the team's operations to Russ Brandon, on January 1, 2013.[5] He continued to consult with Brandon on team and league operations up until his death.

Personal life[edit]

Wilson maintained a permanent residence in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan with his wife, the former Mary McLean, whom he met in 1989.[1] He had three daughters from previous marriages, 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 "Dee Dee" Wilson Jr., is not involved with the franchise. The highest ranking relative in the organization is Mary Owen, Wilson's niece, who serves as Vice President of Strategic Planning.[6]

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. The injury left him wheelchair-bound. 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. He was hospitalized in August and early September 2012 with an unspecified infection and missed the entire 2012 season.[6] In April 2013, Wilson was reported as "doing really well," with a statement that he hoped to make the 2013 home opener.[7]

Wilson was a 1992 inductee of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. He was a 33rd degree Scottish Rite Freemason.[8]

Wilson died at his home on March 25, 2014, of natural causes at the age of 95.[9] The trust that inherited the team will be controlled by his widow, Mary Wilson until its presumably eventual sale.[10]

Pro Football Hall of Fame[edit]

On January 31, 2009, Wilson was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with former Buffalo Bills defensive end Bruce Smith. Joining the two legendary Buffalo Bills icons in Canton for enshrinement were 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. Like Wilson, Titans owner Bud Adams was the only owner his team has ever had, and the two were the only living members of the "Foolish Club", the founders of the original eight AFL teams. Wilson and Adams are 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. Wilson was officially inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, August 8, 2009 with ESPN 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. 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.

Wilson donated US$2.5 million to the construction of a "Pro Football Research and Preservation Center" at the Hall of Fame; the facility was named in Wilson's honor on August 13, 2012.[11]

Thoroughbred racing[edit]

Wilson was also 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 bred Santa Anita Derby winner Jim French, as well as two-year-old European superstar Arazi, winner of the 1991 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and European Horse of the Year.[12] Another horse, Outta Here, raced in the 2003 Kentucky Derby and finished in seventh place.

Philanthropy[edit]

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. School of Education, St. John Fisher College, Rochester NY

The Mary & Ralph Wilson, Jr. Hospice Inpatient Unit of Buffalo Hospice is named after him:

Hospice Buffalo Campus 225 Como Park Boulevard Cheektowaga, New York 14227

The Wilson Building 150 Bennett Road Cheektowaga, NY 14227

Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Athletic Field at the NFL/Youth Education Town-Boys & Girls Club at the Dick & Sandy Dauch CAMPUS in Detroit, Michigan.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Gaughan, Mark. Father's example inspired Wilson in football and business. The Buffalo News. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
  2. ^ Graham, Tim (March 21, 2011). "WWII Museum honors Ralph Wilson". ESPN. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Ralph Wilson - Remember This One? WBEN. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
  5. ^ Simon, Howard (January 1, 2013). "Bills Owner Ralph Wilson Gives Up Control Of Franchise". WGR. Retrieved January 1, 2013. [dead link]
  6. ^ a b Update: Wilson still hospitalized. WGRZ. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  7. ^ Sullivan, Jerry (12 April 2013). "Ralph shooting for home opener". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 12 April 2013. 
  8. ^ "Ralph Wilson Receives Distinguished Service Medal". The Northern Light. November 2010. Retrieved 1 January 2013. [dead link]
  9. ^ Ralph Wilson, owner of Buffalo Bills, dies at 95
  10. ^ Buscaglia, Joe (3 April 2014). "Mary Wilson Named Controlling Owner of the Bills". WGR. 
  11. ^ http://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/news/2012/07/27/pro-football-hall-to-unveil-wilson.html
  12. ^ [2]
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