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William Clay Ford Sr., Detroit Lions owner and former Ford Motor chief, dies

Posted March 09, 2014, at 1:48 p.m.
Last modified March 09, 2014, at 5:36 p.m.
Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr. stands on the sidelines before the start of a game against the New Orleans Saints in Detroit in 2008.
REBECCA COOK | Reuters
Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr. stands on the sidelines before the start of a game against the New Orleans Saints in Detroit in 2008.

DETROIT — Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr. died of pneumonia Sunday at his home. He was 88.

Ford ran Ford Motor Co. for more than five decades in addition to owning the Lions. He was the last surviving grandson of company founder Henry Ford.

Ford was an employee and board member of the automaker for more than half of its 100-year history.

“It is with profound sadness that we mourn the loss of Mr. Ford and extend our deepest sympathies to Mrs. Ford and to the entire Ford family,” Lions president Tom Lewand said in a statement. “No owner loved his team more than Mr. Ford loved the Lions. Those of us who had the opportunity to work for Mr. Ford knew of his unyielding passion for his family, the Lions and the city of Detroit.”

Ford bought the Lions in 1963 and guided their moves from Tiger Stadium to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1975 and to Ford Field in 2002.

It is expected that control of the team will go to his son, William Clay Ford Jr., who has taken on a more active role in recent years.

“For five decades, Mr. Ford’s passion for the Lions, Detroit, and the NFL was the foundation of one of the NFL’s historic franchises,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “As an NFL owner, Mr. Ford helped bring the NFL through enormous periods of change and growth, always guided by his commitment to what was best for the NFL and his beloved Lions. All of us in the NFL extend our heartfelt sympathy to Mr. Ford’s wife Martha, Bill Ford, Jr. and the entire Ford family.”

Ford Sr. was born March 14, 1925, and served in the Navy in World War II. He married Martha Firestone of the family that owned the tire company in 1947. In addition to William Jr., the Fords also had three daughters.

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