Last surviving grandchild of legendary carmaker Henry Ford dies

William Clay Ford senior was a Ford director from 1948 until his retirement in 2005

Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford was the last surviving grandchild of Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company. Photograph: Rebecca Cook/Reuters

Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford was the last surviving grandchild of Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company. Photograph: Rebecca Cook/Reuters

Sun, Mar 9, 2014, 18:57

William Clay Ford senior, the last surviving grandchild of Ford Motor company founder Henry Ford, died on Sunday at age 88, the company said.

Ford, owner of the NFL’s Detroit Lions and father of William Clay Ford junior, executive chairman of the automaker, died of pneumonia at his home in the Detroit suburb Grosse Pointe Shores.

Ford, who was director emeritus of the automaker at the time of his death, would have marked his 89th birthday on Friday.

Ford joined the carmaker’s sales and advertising staff after graduating from Yale in 1949 and spent 57 years with the company.

His notable executive positions included vice president of product design, head of the former Continental Division and member of the office of the chief executive.

His board positions included vice chairman, chairman of the executive committee and chairman of the finance committee. He was a Ford director from 1948 until his retirement in 2005 - more than half the automaker’s 110-year history. Forbes magazine estimated his fortune at $1.35 billion.

“My father was a great business leader and humanitarian who dedicated his life to the company and the community,” his son said in a statement released by Ford.

Ford and his brother Henry II were sons of Edsel Ford, whose father founded the storied automaker. Henry II outshone his younger brother in his career at the company. Known as “HF2” and “Hank the Deuce,” he was Ford’s chairman and chief executive officer before his death in 1987.

William Clay inherited Edsel’s love of design and it showed in his stewardship of the Continental Mark II, a beautiful but short-lived Ford luxury car in the mid-1950s. The car was one of the most expensive of its time but Ford reportedly lost money on it despite its popularity with the rich and famous.

Ford bought the Lions in 1963 and was the team’s chairman until his death. Ford’s survivors include his wife of 66 years, Martha Firestone Ford, granddaughter of Harvey Firestone.

Harvey Firestone was the founder of the Firestone tire company and a good friend of the first Henry Ford. In addition to his wife and William Jr., Ford is survived by his daughters Martha Ford Morse, Sheila Ford Hamp and Elizabeth Ford Kontulis; 14 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.