Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Bills

March 25, 2014

Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. dies

Fate of National Football League team now up in the air

(Continued)

BUFFALO —

"I said to both of them, 'Even if you were goofy enough to go into a new speculative pro football league and buck the established NFL, which of these five cities would you pick?' " Wilson said in an interview several years ago.
"They both said Buffalo and when I asked why, they said that Buffalo had good attendance in the All-America Conference (a league that played from 1946-49), it was a good football city, an industrial city similar to Detroit on a smaller scale. And Buffalo had been without football for 10 years and wanted it back, so that was their choice."
Soon it became Wilson's choice.
On Monday, Oct. 17, 1959, Buffalo Evening News sports editor Paul Neville wrote a story with a headline that read: "Buffalo to Have Team in Pro Football League Next Fall."
"We didn't know if this league was going to go, the odds were certainly against it and everyone was laughing at me," said Wilson, who promised to stay in Buffalo three years to see if he could make a go of it. "But after the three years were up, I decided to stay."
And he never left. Of the eight original Foolish Club members, he is the only one who kept his team in its original city.
More than 50 years later, though he had numerous opportunities to move the Bills and tap into richer revenue streams in larger cities, Wilson stayed true to Buffalo. His dedication to the city is one of the reasons why he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Wilson was born in Columbus, Ohio on Oct. 17, 1918 and moved with his family to Detroit when he was a youngster. He attended the University of Virginia and later attended law school at the University of Michigan before enlisting in the Navy during World War II. He earned his commission within a year and served aboard minesweepers in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters.

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