In 1963, William Clay Ford Sr. purchased the Detroit Lions for $4.5 million. He officially took over as the owner in January of 1964, and proceeded to hold onto that position for 50 years. New stadiums were built. Super Bowls were hosted. However, Ford's tenure as the Lions owner, and as a living person, have both come to an end. Ford Sr. has passed away at the age of 88 as a result of a bout of pneumonia.
The last surviving grandson of Henry Ford, one of this country's foremost captains of industry/anti-Semites, Ford was obviously a Detroit institution. He worked at Ford for 57 years, and, of course the stadium has Ford Field written right on the side. Ford Sr. wasn't a particularly boisterous owner. In fact, he seemed pretty staid, perhaps to a fault. After all, the Lions did not exactly have a ton of success under Ford Sr.'s ownership. They never went to a Super Bowl. We had to sit through an extended Matt Millen Era. Perhaps a more active owner would have cut ties sooner. Perhaps a more football savvy one. I don't know how much Ford Sr. really knew about football. He wasn't Jerry Jones, you know? Which isn't a bad thing.
Things can always get a bit tricky when a sports owner dies. Look no further than when Bill Davidson passed away and the Pistons fell into turmoil. I imagine that won't happen here. His son, William Clay Ford Jr., has been the Vice Chairman of the Lions for a while. The Ford family also doesn't really need to worry about finances. Senior was very wealthy, of course, but so is Junior. And it's not like the Ford Motor Company doesn't still exist. I expect a fairly smooth transition from father to son in terms of ownership.
This could, possibly, lead to a change of direction for the Lions. Ford Jr. is a younger man, and seemingly a more business savvy, outside the box thinker. Maybe he would take on a more hands on approach. A smarter approach, too.
However, such business questions can be addressed later, further away from the death of William Clay Ford Sr. You can't really argue with the success he had in his long, full life. The only owner most of us Detroit Lions fans has ever known has passed on. It's the end of an era.