Ralph Wilson

Buffalo Bills Founding Owner

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Ralph Wilson lived in Detroit, Michigan as a child. Later, he would graduate from the University of Virginia. Wilson enlisted in the Navy during World War II, quickly earning his commission and serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific theatres.

After the war, Wilson joined his father’s insurance business. Branching out over the years, Wilson is now Chairman of Ralph C. Wilson Industries, Inc. in Detroit, which includes manufacturing, television and radio stations, construction, insurance and contract drilling operations.

Always an avid fan of football, Wilson first purchased a minority share in the National Football League’s Detroit Lions. Later he joined Lamar Hunt and the rest of “The Foolish Club” in what was to be the other league, the American Football League.

The venture has since proven to be anything but foolish, as the competitive level of play between AFL teams like Wilson’s Buffalo Bills, the Oakland Raiders, the San Diego Chargers, the New York Jets, the Kansas City Chiefs, and others, eventually led to an AFL-NFL merger in 1966 – a merger in which Wilson was instrumental. The rest is history.

During his tenure as owner of the Buffalo Bills, Wilson has seen his team win two AFL Championships (1964-65) and four AFC Championships. The Bills also had an NFL-record four consecutive Superbowl appearances (1991-94, Superbowls XXV-XXVIII). Two other times his Bills fell one step short of the Superbowl (in 1966, the first Superbowl, and in 1988).

With his induction into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 1992, Wilson joined a former player of his, O.J. Simpson, an inaugural inductee in 1991. Since then, several former Buffalo Bills have been enshrined.