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WNY Reacts to the Passing of Ralph Wilson

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - Though 95 years old, the death of Buffalo Bills Founder and Owner Ralph Wilson Jr. sent shockwaves through the Western New York community.

Here is some of the reaction from people around Buffalo, The NFL and the U.S.:

Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon:

“I speak for everyone within the Bills organization when I say that we are all suffering a deep and profound sadness with the passing of our Hall of Fame owner Mr. Wilson. We have lost our founder, our mentor, our friend, and this is a very difficult time for us all. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Mary, his daughters Christy and Dee Dee (Edith), his niece Mary and his entire family."

"Mr. Wilson had a relentless passion, a deep love for his Buffalo Bills, the City of Buffalo and the National Football League.  He also loved the Bills fans and all of the people of Western New York who embraced the Bills."

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz:

“I am deeply saddened to hear of Ralph Wilson's passing. He was a man of great integrity who kept his word to our community. My thoughts are with Mr. Wilson's family and the entire Buffalo Bills organization at this sad time.”

Rep. Chris Collins:

"The people of Buffalo and Western New York have lost a true gentleman and friend.  While not a local resident, Ralph Wilson keenly understood what it meant to be a Western New Yorker and how much the team he built means to our community.  It was my great honor as a Member of Congress and as the former Erie County Executive to work with him, and I am deeply saddened by his loss.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and the entire Buffalo Bills organization during this time."

Bill Polian, ESPN Commentator, Bills General Manager from 1985-1992:

"It's a sad day for everyone in the Bills family, myself included. He gave me my start in this business as a general manager when no one even knew my name. So I have a great regard and great affection for him. I think that what most people don't know is the great sense of humor he had. He was really always available with a joke and a quip. He was passionate about his team -- very demanding about his team, but he had a great sense of humor"

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw:

“I was sad to learn of Mr. Wilson’s passing this afternoon.  Everyone in Buffalo is a Bills fan, but Buffalo itself had no greater fan than Ralph Wilson.  Born and raised in the City of Buffalo, I have been a Bills fan my entire life.  Some of my greatest memories as a child were watching games with my family.”

“As an adult, I grew a greater appreciation for the Bills as an organization, not just an NFL team.  Through Mr. Wilson’s leadership, they remained committed to this area, even when many other teams moved around to more lucrative communities.  At this time, my thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Wilson’s family and the Bills organization.”

State Senator Mark Grisanti:

"This is a sad, sad day for fans of the Buffalo Bills in particular, and of professional football in general.  We have lost a great man. Thank you Ralph for your commitment to Western New York."

Governor Andrew Cuomo:

“Today we lost a legendary member of the New York family. Ralph Wilson Jr., the last remaining original team owner of an AFL franchise, member of the NFL Hall of Fame, and founder of the Buffalo Bills, gave us a team that has been the pride of Western New York for the past 54 years. The Bills remain, to this day, an economic engine for the region, generating revenue and providing jobs at a stadium that will bear Mr. Wilson’s name for years to come. From his military service during World War II, to his ownership of the Bills, Mr. Wilson left a legacy of leadership that helped keep the team in Buffalo for more than half a century. His passion for football and dedication to his community epitomized the spirit of the Buffalo Bills and their fans. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends and the entire Bills organization.”

Rep. Brian Higgins:

“Today Western New York lost a champion.  Ralph Wilson believed in Buffalo, invested here and remained committed to this community for his remarkable 55 year tenure as owner of the Buffalo Bills.  In my encounters with him, it was clear he was a man who knew professional football and sincerely was in it for the love of the game. He was a generous supporter of the community and a World War II veteran.  We are forever grateful Mr. Wilson for his dedication to Western New York and our nation.” 

Mayor Byron Brown:

“The entire Buffalo community is sad to learn of the passing of Buffalo Bills founder and owner, Ralph C. Wilson,  Jr. As a result of his long standing ownership and intense dedication to the Bills franchise, he earned the respect and admiration of football fans in Western New York and across the nation. His life, legacy and Hall of Fame career will never be forgotten. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and the entire Bills organization.”

Buffalo Bisons:

“The Buffalo Bisons organization and family extends our deepest heartfelt sympathies to everyone within the Buffalo Bills family over the passing of team owner and Western New York sports icon, Ralph Wilson. Mr. Wilson has meant so much to our sporting community and his leadership and dedication to the greatest sports fans in the country is something that will surely be missed. A great advocate of Buffalo sports, we are deeply saddened to hear of his passing.”

State Sen. Tim Kennedy:

“Considered by many Bills fans as the father of football in Buffalo and across Western New York, Ralph Wilson’s passing marks the end of an era. Mr. Wilson will be remembered as an immense figure in our city’s history who contributions extended far beyond the football field and deep into the roots of our community. Western New York would not be the same without Ralph Wilson Jr. and the Buffalo Bills.

“Western New York has experienced its fair share of hard times, but with Ralph Wilson’s ongoing support of the Buffalo Bills, we have had a strong source of pride, deep in our hearts. The Buffalo Bills have always brought our community together, and they have always lifted us higher. For all the good times we’ve shared rooting for our beloved Buffalo Bills, we have Ralph Wilson Jr. to thank. Like all sports franchises, there have been disappointments along the way, but nothing compares to the deep sadness we feel this day, as we mourn the loss of Ralph Wilson Jr.

“The Buffalo News today shared a memorable quote that Ralph Wilson delivered after signing a 15-year lease deal in 1997. It is both moving and accurate, heartfelt and sincere. It shows that Ralph Wilson loved and appreciated this community, as much as we appreciated him. He said, ‘The strength of the Bills franchise is the passion of the fans. Buffalo is a community of down-to-earth, hard-working families who, in large numbers, are also avid sports fans. You know how the people here feel about you because they are very straightforward. That is a quality I admire.’ We have always admired Ralph Wilson Jr., and we mourn his passing today.”

Buffalo Sabres Owners Terry and Kim Pegula:

"The entire Buffalo Sabres organization was saddened to learn of the passing of Ralph Wilson, Jr. His contributions to the city of Buffalo over his 50-plus years of owning the Bills were immeasurable and his legacy in Western New York and the sports world will be long-lasting. With his passion for the game and never-ending loyalty to the great fans of Buffalo, he embodied what all owners in sports strive to be. On behalf of the Buffalo Sabres, we would like to offer heartfelt condolences to his wife, Mary, the Wilson family and everyone in the Buffalo Bills organization.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver:

I am saddened by the passing of Ralph Wilson, the legendary owner of the Buffalo Bills and one of America’s most prominent businessmen.

Mr. Wilson deserves much credit for choosing to invest in Western New York and putting his faith in the area’s football fans when he helped launch the fledgling American Football League in the City of Buffalo, forever linking it and the surrounding region to what is now the National Football League, today’s premier professional sports institution.

For more than 50 years, Mr. Wilson partnered with state and local governments to keep the nationally acclaimed team in the region where he generously supported numerous charitable, youth and civic organizations.

Mr. Wilson’s longtime presence in business and sports was a terrific asset to the area, and he was true to his commitment that Western New York be the home of the Buffalo Bills.  May he rest in peace.

Dr. Donald Bain, President, St. John Fisher College:

“The College is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Ralph Wilson. Mr. Wilson was a generous supporter of the College, and a close personal friend. We will be forever grateful to him and to the entire Wilson family for their commitment to the College, and he will be remembered fondly by us all. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the Buffalo Bills organization at this time.”

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