Ralph Cookerly Wilson Jr., the 95-year-old owner of the Buffalo Bills, has passed away. His passing was announced by Bills President Russ Brandon.
Wilson is one of the most beloved figures in New York sports. While he didn’t found the team, he spent years fighting to keep the Bills in Buffalo. Wilson brought the team to Buffalo in 1959 alongside eight businessmen led by Texas oilman Lamar Hunt.
Wilson paid just $25,000 to take an ownership stake in the American Football League club. At the time the National Football League was dominating the professional landscape and the payment was considered a risk. That investment today is worth more than $870 million.
In 1997 Ralph Wilson signed a 15-year lease to keep Buffalo in Orchard Park. At the time of the signing he said it was the “passion of the fans” that has allowed the team to remain in the area.
Fans of the franchise and Wilson immediately shared their condolences on Twitter:
Buffalo Bills Post A Final Twitter Farewell For Ralph Wilson
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) March 25, 2014
Fans Share Some Of Their Fondest Memories
Ralph Wilson served in both the Atlantic and the Pacific during WWII – The Greatest Generation indeed. https://t.co/Y8jxPopogt
— Jeremy White (@JeremyWGR) March 25, 2014
NFL Players Share Their Condolences For Ralph Wilson
Prayers going out to the family of Ralph Wilson. The NFL is a better product, for his influence on the game.
— Greg Jennings (@GregJennings) March 25, 2014
Announcers And Networks Remember Ralph Wilson
Kraft remembered how Ralph Wilson reached out to him when he first bought the #Patriots: "He was a real gentleman, a classy guy."
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 25, 2014
Ralph Wilson, Hall of Fame owner of the Buffalo Bills & one of the founding owners of the AFL, has passed away at 95. pic.twitter.com/L9bR2PXB73
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) March 25, 2014
Here is the official tweet sent from Russ Brandon which announced Wilson’s passing:
Are you a fan of the Buffalo Bills and Ralph Wilson?