WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – The NFL mourned the loss of longtime Buffalo Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., who passed away at 95 years of age, on Wednesday.

Along with being one of the founding owners of the American Football League — purchasing the Buffalo organization he would later name the Bills in 1959 — Wilson was also a veteran of the United States Navy, serving in World War II.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of the great Ralph Wilson,” Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement. “All of us have lost a NFL legend whose passion for his team was inspiring. We will always be thankful for Ralph’s contributions to the development of the AFL and NFL.”

“Ralph Wilson was a driving force in developing pro football into America’s most popular sport,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “He loved the game and took a chance on a start-up league in 1960 as a founding owner of the American Football League.”

Bills CEO and President Russ Brandon offered these words:

“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. We have lost our founder, our mentor, our friend, and this is a very difficult time for us all. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Mary, his daughters Christy and Dee Dee (Edith), his niece Mary and his entire family.

Mr. Wilson had a relentless passion, a deep love for his Buffalo Bills, the City of Buffalo and the National Football League. He also loved the Bills fans and all of the people of Western New York who embraced the Bills.

This incredible man was the personification of the Buffalo Bills. His life was grit, determination and resolve. He was bigger than life in many ways and yet he was the everyday man, driving his Ford Taurus to the local store and greeting everyone as they called out “Hi Ralph!” He will be greatly missed by those in our community whose lives he touched.”

Wilson was born Oct. 17, 1918.


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