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 Pneumonia
Resting place Woodlawn Cemetery (Detroit, Michigan)
Nationality American
Education Hotchkiss School (1943)[1]
Yale University (BEc)
Net worth Increase$1.4 billion (2013)[2]
Spouse(s) Martha Parke Firestone (1947–2014)
  • 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 the National Football League (NFL) franchise, the Detroit Lions.


Born on March 14, 1925, in Detroit, Michigan to Edsel Ford[3] 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, Ford was appointed to Ford Motor Company's board of directors.[4] Ford graduated from the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut in 1943[1] and received a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Yale University in 1949;[5] he was a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity.

After graduating, Ford worked for the Ford Motor Company, and briefly led the Continental Division.[5] 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.[6]

Ford was chairman of the board at the Henry Ford Museum, from 1951 to 1983.[7] 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.[8]

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 Edwin Anderson and Lyle Fife for $4.5 million. 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.[9] He served on the board of directors for 57 years, retiring on May 12, 2005, including being chairman of the Finance Committee.[5][10] 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.[2] Ford reportedly owned in Ford Motor Company: 6.7 million shares of Class B stock and 26.3 million common shares; in other words, Ford was the largest single shareholder.[A][12]

Ford died of pneumonia, a week before his 89th birthday, at his home in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, on March 9, 2014.[13][14][15][16] He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Detroit.[17]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ In 2000 the company restructured and paid out a $10 billion special dividend. According to an article from 2000, incidental to a repurchase of outstanding shares: "The Ford family holds all 71 million shares of the company's Class B stock, along with a small number of the company's 1.1 billion common shares. Under rules designed to preserve family control and drafted when the company went public in 1956, the family holds 40 percent of the voting power at the company as long as it continues to own at least 60.7 million shares of the Class B stock -- even though the Class B shares make up only 6 percent of the company's overall equity. ... Why does this exist? The Ford family owns all 70+ million shares of the Class B stock. It is a way for them to ensure they keep control of the company no matter how much stock they have to issue to avoid bankruptcy. Some argue that dual class structures are inherently unfair because you are decoupling ownership from voting power."[11]


  1. ^ a b "Alumni Award: PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS". The Hotchkiss School. 2004. Retrieved March 8, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Forbes Magazine: William Clay Ford Sr. Profile
  3. ^ "William Clay Ford Biography" (PDF). Ford Motor Company. March 9, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  4. ^ Lions Owner, Board Member Of Ford Motor Co. William Clay Ford, Sr. Dead At 88, CBS Detroit, March 9, 2014
  5. ^ a b c Bloomberg Businessweek: William Clay Ford, Sr. Mini-Biography
  6. ^ Lacey 1988, pp. 462-463.
  7. ^ Last Surviving Grandchild of Henry Ford, William Clay Ford Dies at Age 88, Edward A. Sanchez, Automobile, March 09, 2014
  8. ^ Dearborn Inn, Jennifer Czerwick Ganem, Arcadia Publishing, 2011
  9. ^ William Clay Ford, Grandson of Henry Ford, Dead at 88, Matthew Rocco, FOXBusiness, March 10, 2014
  10. ^ Lacey 1988, p. 642.
  11. ^ Kennon, Joshua. "A Real Life Example of Dual Class Structures in a Public Company: A Look at Ford Motor's Class A and Class B Shares". Investment for beginners. About Money.com. Retrieved January 26, 2015. 
  12. ^ Forbes Magazine: Ford Family Shuffles Wealth
  13. ^ Lienert, Paul (March 9, 2014). "William Clay Ford Sr., grandson of pioneer automaker, dies at 88". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr. has died". WXYZ-TV. March 10, 2014. 
  15. ^ Chris Poturalski (March 9, 2014). "Detroit Lions Owner William Clay Ford Sr. Dies". WXMI. 
  16. ^ "Ford Motor Company Releases Statement On Death Of William Clay Ford, Sr.". Dearborn, MI: CBS News. March 9, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  17. ^ William Clay "Bill" Ford, Sr at Find a Grave


External links[edit]