William Clay Ford Sr., who helped steer Ford Motor Co. for more than five decades and owned the NFL's Detroit Lions, has died at the age of 88.
The company said in a statement Sunday that Ford died of pneumonia at his home. He was the last surviving grandson of company founder Henry Ford.
Ford served as an employee and board member of the automaker for more than half of its 100-year history. The company says in a statement that he was instrumental in setting the design direction for the company's vehicles.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan released this statement on the passing of Ford:
"I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of William Clay Ford, Sr., today. Not only was Mr. Ford a titan in our business community; he has been one of Detroit’s greatest supporters and philanthropists. His commitment to the city was never more evident than it was with his decision to move the Detroit Lions back downtown to the stadium that bears his family’s name. That vote of confidence in Detroit was an important piece of the redevelopment of downtown that has since taken place.
Mr. Ford’s compassion was equally evident in the many philanthropic causes he supported so generously over the years. My heart goes out to his family and loved ones as they mourn their loss. Mr. Ford's legacy surely will live on through his extraordinary family."
Ford CEO Alan Mulally says in a statement that Ford had a profound impact on the company.
“The company extends its deepest sympathies to the many members of the extended Ford family at this difficult time. While we mourn Mr. Ford’s death, we also are grateful for his many contributions to the company and the auto industry, ” Mulally said.
Detroit Lions President Tom Lewand issued this statement:
“It is with profound sadness that we mourn the loss of Mr. Ford and extend our deepest sympathies to Mrs. Ford and to the entire Ford family. No owner loved his team more than Mr. Ford loved the Lions.
Those of us who had the opportunity to work for Mr. Ford knew of his unyielding passion for his family, the Lions and the city of Detroit.
His leadership, integrity, kindness, humility and good humor were matched only by his desire to bring a Super Bowl championship to the Lions and to our community. Each of us in the organization will continue to relentlessly pursue that goal in his honor.”
Mr. Ford is survived by his wife of 66 years, Martha Firestone Ford; daughters Martha Ford Morse (Peter), Sheila Ford Hamp (Steven), and Elizabeth Ford Kontulis (Charles); son William Clay Ford, Jr. (Lisa); 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
In honor of Mr. Ford’s memory, Ford Motor Company locations in the U.S. will lower their American and Ford flags to half-staff for a 30-day period. Ford locations outside of the U.S. will follow local custom.