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William Clay Ford, Grandson of Automaker Henry Ford, Dies at 88

Image: William Clay Ford, Grandson of Automaker Henry Ford, Dies at 88 William Clay Ford, at left, and pictured at right on a 1903 Ford Model A with Edsel Ford II, left and his son, William Clay Ford Jr. center.

Monday, 10 Mar 2014 04:34 PM

By Morgan Chilson

William Clay Ford Sr., the last grandson of famed automaker Henry Ford and the owner of the Detroit Lions, died Sunday at 88.

A former Ford Motor Co. exec, Ford Sr. died of pneumonia at his home near Detroit. Ford worked for the company founded by his grandfather for 57 years, many of those years in automobile design.

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He is the father of William Clay Ford Jr., who currently is executive chair of Ford Motor Co.

“My father was a great business leader and humanitarian who dedicated his life to the company and the community,” said Clay Jr. said in a company release. “He also was a wonderful family man, a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.”

Alan Mulally, Ford president and CEO, wrote in the release that Ford Sr. had a “profound impact” on the company.

Ford Sr. appreciated European styling of cars and was a major supporter when Ford purchased Jaguar, Nick Scheele, a former Ford Motor president, told Reuters.

"You could see it in his Continental Mark II," Scheele said. "He had a great eye for styling."

Reuters said Ford Sr. will be remembered for the Continental Mark II’s design, which Bill Chapin, president of the Automotive Hall of Fame, said, “was not a financial success, but it helped build Ford’s image and reputation.”

In addition to his interest in the family business, Ford Sr. was the longtime owner of the Detroit Lions NFL team. He purchased the team in 1963 for $6 million.

His financial interest in the team passed to Martha Ford, his wife, at his death, NFL.com reported. She and her four children will be active in managing the team, as they have in the years before Ford Sr.’s death.

Ford Sr.’s 50-year ownership of the team didn't necessarily add up to a winning record.

“He was notably loyal, probably too loyal, even to those who were failing him,” NFL.com's Judy Battista wrote, quoting people who said he was a quiet owner who would stick with people who weren’t very good.

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