William Clay Ford Sr.
Ford in 1961
William Clay Ford
March 14, 1925
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
|Died||March 9, 2014 (aged 88)|
|Resting place||Woodlawn Cemetery|
|Education||Yale University (BS)|
|Net worth||US$1.4 billion (2014)|
William Clay Ford Sr. (March 14, 1925 - March 9, 2014) was an American businessman. He served on the boards of Ford Motor Company and the Edison Institute. Ford owned the Detroit Lions National Football League (NFL) franchise. He was the youngest child of Edsel Ford and was the last surviving grandchild of Henry Ford.
He graduated from the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut in 1943 and received a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Yale University in 1949; he was a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity, captain of the soccer and tennis teams, an honorable mention all American selection in soccer senior year, and winner of 7 varsity letters as a collegiate athlete. Ford also served in the U.S. Navy Air Corps during World War II.
Following the war, Ford married Martha Parke Firestone, the granddaughter of Harvey Firestone and Idabelle Smith Firestone, on June 21, 1947. William first met Martha at a lunch in New York City arranged and attended by both of their mothers, according to the biography The Fords. Martha then was a Vassar student who had the college nickname "Stoney." He was a naval cadet at St. Mary's U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School .They married on June 21, 1947 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Akron, Ohio. By that time both families had acquired considerable wealth, and the matchup between the grandchildren of two empire-builders was reported by numerous news outlets. The Akron Beacon Journal called the Firestone-Ford nuptials "the biggest society wedding in Akron's history" and "the biggest show Akron has seen in years" in numerous articles chronicling the event. The couple received gifts from F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover, media publisher John S. Knight, and Mina Miller Edison.
The couple had four children: Martha Parke Morse (b. 1948), Sheila Firestone Hamp (b. 1951), William Clay Ford, Jr. (b. 1957), and Elizabeth Hudson Ford Kontulis (b. 1961). As of 2018 his son William was the Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of Ford Motor Company. He had previously been the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Ford. Their children Martha, Sheila, and William also serve as Vice Chairmen of the Detroit Lions, while Sheila was announced to take over as principal owner and chairwoman in June 2020.
After graduating from Yale, Ford worked for the Ford Motor Company, and briefly led the Continental Division. The Continental Division, however, was short-lived and merged with the Lincoln Motor Company shortly before Ford's public stock offering. Ford redesigned the Lincoln Continental, a vehicle his father created; in 1955, the Continental Mark II was released. Only two pictures adorned his office wall, his father's Continental and his updated Mark II.
In 1948, a year after Henry Ford's death, Ford was appointed to Ford Motor Company's board of directors. Ford was chairman of the board at the Henry Ford Museum, from 1951 to 1983. He was also involved in other historic properties, serving on the boards of the Wayside Inn and Seaboard Properties, which managed the Dearborn Inn and Botsford Inn.
A minority owner and team president of the Detroit Lions since 1961, Ford took advantage of a power struggle between Edwin Anderson and D. Lyle Fife to acquire total control of the franchise by buying out the other 144 shareholders for $4.5 million. The Lions' board of directors approved the transaction on November 22, 1963. During Ford's ownership, the Lions won 41 percent of their regular-season matches, made the playoffs ten times and never appeared in the Super Bowl. He was also chairman of the short-lived Detroit Cougars, a professional soccer team, which played in the USA and NASL leagues.
He was Ford Motor Company's Design Committee chairman for 32 years, from 1957 to 1989. He served on the board of directors for 57 years, retiring on May 12, 2005, including being chairman of the Finance Committee. His son, William Clay Ford Jr., was Ford Motor Company's CEO at the time.
According to the Forbes magazine, Ford was the 371st richest person in the United States in 2013, with an approximate net worth of $1.4 billion. He reportedly owned in Ford Motor Company: 6.7 million shares of Class B stock and 26.3 million common shares; making him the largest single shareholder.[A]