William Clay Ford, Sr.

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William Clay Ford, Sr.
William Clay Ford Sr 1961.jpg
Ford in 1961
Born (1925-03-14)March 14, 1925
Detroit, Michigan
Died March 9, 2014(2014-03-09) (aged 88)
Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan
Cause of death
Residence Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan
Citizenship United States
Education Yale University (BEc)
Net worth Increase$1.4 billion (2013)[1]
Spouse(s) Martha Parke Firestone (m. 1947)
  • Martha Parke Morse (b. 1948)
  • Sheila Firestone Hamp (b. 1951)
  • William Clay Ford, Jr. (b. 1957)
  • Elizabeth Hudson Ford (b. 1961)

William Clay Ford, Sr. (March 14, 1925 – March 9, 2014) was the youngest child of Edsel Ford and was the last surviving grandchild of Henry Ford. Ford served on the boards of Ford Motor Company and the Edison Institute. Ford owned and served as chairman of the Detroit Lions football team.


Born on March 14, 1925, in Detroit, Michigan to Edsel Ford[2] and Eleanor Lowthian Clay, Ford 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. They had four children together: Martha Parke Morse (b. 1948); Sheila Firestone Hamp (b. 1951); William Clay Ford, Jr. (b. 1957); and Elizabeth Hudson Ford (b. 1961).

In 1948, a year after Henry Ford's death, William Clay Ford was appointed to the board of directors of the Ford Motor Company.[3] Ford received a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Yale University in 1949,[4] and was a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity.

After graduating, Ford worked for the Ford Motor Company and was briefly head of the Continental Division.[4] Continental was short-lived and merged with the Lincoln Motor Company shortly before Ford's public stock offering. Ford updated the Lincoln Continental that his father created and in 1955, the Continental Mark II was released. It is said there were only two pictures on his office wall, his father's Continental and his updated Mark II.[5]

Ford was chairman of the board of trustees of the Henry Ford Museum from 1951 to 1983 and its largest donor.[6] 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.[7]

On April 10, 1952, an iron ore-hauling ship, the SS William Clay Ford, was named in honor of him.

On November 22, 1963, Ford purchased a controlling interest in the Detroit Lions of the National Football League from the previous owners, Edwin Anderson and Lyle Fife for $4.5 million. He was also chairman of the short-lived Detroit Cougars professional soccer team that played in the USA and NASL leagues.

Ford served as chairman of Ford Motor Company's design committee for 32 years, from 1957 to 1989.[8] He was a member of the board of directors for 57 years, retiring on May 12, 2005, including being chairman of the important Finance Committee for a time.[4][9] 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.[1] Ford reportedly owned 6.7 million shares of Class B stock and 26.3 million common shares; in other words, Ford was the largest single shareholder in the Ford Motor Company.[10]

Ford died in his sleep from pneumonia at his home in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, on March 9, 2014[11], less than a week before his 89th birthday.[12][13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Forbes Magazine: William Clay Ford Sr. Profile
  2. ^ "William Clay Ford Biography" (PDF). Ford Motor Company. March 9, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  3. ^ Lions Owner, Board Member Of Ford Motor Co. William Clay Ford, Sr. Dead At 88, CBS Detroit, March 9, 2014
  4. ^ a b c Bloomberg Businessweek: William Clay Ford, Sr. Mini-Biography
  5. ^ Lacey, Robert, Ford, The Men and the Machine, 1986, Boston, Little Brown And Company. pp. 462-463.
  6. ^ Last Surviving Grandchild of Henry Ford, William Clay Ford Dies at Age 88, Edward A. Sanchez, Automobile, March 09, 2014
  7. ^ Dearborn Inn, Jennifer Czerwick Ganem, Arcadia Publishing, 2011
  8. ^ William Clay Ford, Grandson of Henry Ford, Dead at 88, Matthew Rocco, FOXBusiness, March 10, 2014
  9. ^ Lacey, Robert, Ford, The Men and the Machine, 1986, Boston, Little Brown And Company. pp. 642.
  10. ^ Forbes Magazine: Ford Family Shuffles Wealth
  11. ^ Lienert, Paul (March 9, 2014). "William Clay Ford Sr., grandson of pioneer automaker, dies at 88". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  12. ^ http://www.wxyz.com/sports/detroit-lions-owner-william-clay-ford-sr-has-died
  13. ^ http://fox17online.com/2014/03/09/detroit-lions-owner-william-clay-ford-sr-dies/
  14. ^ "Ford Motor Company Releases Statement On Death Of William Clay Ford, Sr.". Dearborn, MI: CBS News. March 9, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Lacey, Robert, Ford, The Men and the Machine, 1986, Boston, Little Brown And Company. pp. 462–463, 642.