Buffalo Bills Founder Celebrated in Detroit

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For the next three odd months, the legacy of Ralph C. Wilson, as well as the person behind the legacy, is being celebrated by the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Ralph C. Wilson

Ralph Wilson passed away on March 2014 at the ripe age of 95. At his time of death, he was the oldest owner of an NFL team in history. Being a son of Detroit, his life is now celebrated at the local Institute of Arts. Wilson founded the Buffalo Bills in 1960 as one of the National Football League teams. Wilson was also one of the founding owners of the American Football League before it merged with the National Football League in 1970. He owned the organization for 54 years, and that places him third in the line of most extended owners of an NFL team. In 2009 Wilson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his longstanding contribution to the sport. He was inducted with Bruce Smith, who was with Wilson, the only remaining member of the original group of founders of the AFL, also nicknamed the “Foolish Club”.

Wilson’s Many Interests in Life

Ralph Wilson wasn’t only a football legend but also involved with thoroughbred horse racing as both an owner as well as a breeder. Wilson owned horses in both the United States as well as in France. Jim French, the Santa Anita Derby Winner, was from his stables as well as Arazi, which won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 1991 as well as the European Horse of the Year.

Wilson was also an avid art lover. He collected some of the most exquisite paintings of the artistic masters which the world has offered over the ages. He started collecting art in the early 1990s, and although his collection wasn’t extensive, it did contain works of Alfred Sisley, Claude Monet and Edouard Manet, valued at millions of US Dollars.

His Deteriorating Health

In 2011 Wilson had an unfortunate accident at his home in Michigan and broke his hip. This injury kept him away from the Buffalo Bills home opening game that year. Since this injury, his health didn’t return as he hoped it would, and he suffered a couple of setbacks through infections. In 2014 he passed away at his home.

The Exhibition

The exhibition is held as a celebration of a century since Wilson’s birth. The show is considered to be a display of the power in collaboration between different bodies, including museums, artists and cities. It displays the rich legacy which Wilson left to the world in various fields as well as the contribution which he made advocating for both Buffalo as well as Detroit. The collection of art on display are over 40 works from Impressionists as well as Post-Impressionists from the Detroit Museum, Buffalo and the New York Gallery. It is a beautiful celebration of the life of the man behind the Bills in the year that they turn sixty.