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Important Dates in Bills History: March 25, 2014. Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. passes away
March 25, 2017 11:00 AM | Kelly Baker
Important Dates in Bills History, presented by M&T Bank, helps fans recognize what's important. In the NFL, honoring those who've made a lasting impact on the game is important and three years ago today the Buffalo Bills and the entire league paid tribute to a legend - Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.

From the moment Wilson stepped onto the professional football scene, the astute businessman from Detroit left a sizeable impression. Bringing with him an unrivaled passion for the sport, a blue collar work ethic and a wealth of knowledge, Wilson was eager to contribute to the growing market. A key member of the "Foolish Club," - a group of individuals who were given the nickname due to their audacity to compete with the NFL - Wilson and his cronies helped found the American Football League (AFL).

Granted the AFL's seventh franchise on Oct. 28, 1959, Wilson brought his newly established team to New York's second largest city-Buffalo. Establishing a presence in the community proved near instantaneous as fans quickly embraced the Bills. With Wilson at the helm, Buffalo's rise to prominence on the field also occurred at a commendable pace. In 1964, just four years after the team's inception, the Bills found themselves competing for the franchise's first of two consecutive AFL Championship titles.

RELATED: IMPORTANT DATES IN BILLS HISTORY: FEB. 8, 1960. FIRST BILLS SEASON TICKETS GO ON-SALE

Wilson's accomplishments came to define his celebrated career. Buffalo's fearless founding owner played a major role in the 1970 AFL-NFL merger and is commonly credited for helping shape the modern-day NFL. Well respected for his invaluable expertise, Wilson paved the way for the Bills once again in the early '90s. Working with head coach Marv Levy and GM Bill Polian, the Bills became a force to be reckoned with. The team won an unprecedented four AFC Championships in a row. The unrivaled feat would not have been possible without Wilson's support.

His love for football was equally matched with his commitment to the community. His philanthropic efforts were recognized through the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. Through the organization, Wilson was able to give back to those in need in a variety of ways. Since his passing in 2014, Wilson continues to make an impact through acts of immense generosity. The majority, $1.2 billion, of the revenue gained from the sale of his beloved Bills was awarded to the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to continue his life's work. In accordance with Wilson's wishes, the funds will be dispersed over the next 20 years to aid the Western New York and Southeastern Michigan areas.

Today, a bronze statue, depicting a smiling Wilson is viewable on the grounds of New Era Field. Created in his honor, the figure is located in Founder's Plaza near the Bills Store where fans can pay tribute to the franchise's pioneer.

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