Important Dates in Bills history presented by M&T Bank helps fans understand what's important. The beginning is important. Over 55 years at the forefront of the franchise, Buffalo Bills founding owner Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. went from a member of the so-called "Foolish Club" to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Wilson, a Michigan-based business man who had previously been part-owner of the Detroit Lions, was among the founders of the upstart American Football League, dubbed "The Foolish Club" for their audacity to challenge the already-established National Football League.
Given the choice between five different cities to establish a football club, Wilson made what he called a "lucky pick" by selecting Buffalo as the forever home of his new Bills.
On October 28, 1959, Wilson was awarded the seventh franchise in the fledgling AFL, starting a relationship with a community and people he loved that remains despite his passing.
Within six years in the burgeoning AFL, Wilson claimed two Championships and successfully negotiated a merger between the two rival leagues, helping shape pro football as we know it today.
Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. was respected by all who knew him, his official obituary reads. He was the ultimate sportsman and a man of integrity and resolve. As the founding owner of the Buffalo Bills, his love and commitment to the game of football and the National Football League was unsurpassed. He was well-regarded as the "conscience of the NFL" due to his unwavering commitment to speak his mind with the best interests of both at heart.
He will be remembered for his indelible sense of humor, unwavering passion for life, business and people. He was larger than life, yet he was the everyday man.
Although he enjoyed success as an entrepreneur across industries as broad as a life well-lived, it was a "foolish" choice that helped cement his legacy over 55 years with his beloved Bills. And it all began – from laughingstock to legend – on October 28, 1959.
The Bills owner has passed away at the age of 95.