William Clay Ford, last surviving grandson of company founder Henry Ford and an instrumental factor in the Ford Motor Company's [NYSE:F] modern era, has passed away aged 88. Ford worked in the company that bore his grandfather's name for 57 years as an employee and board member. He started in the company in 1949, after graduating from Yale University--though he'd been elected into the board of directors in June 1948.
From 1957 he was chairman of Ford's Design Committee, a post he subsequently held for 32 years, steering the company's designs through one of Ford's most iconic periods. From 1978 he became chairman of the Executive Committee, vice chairman of the board from 1980 and chairman of the Finance Committee from 1987 to 1989. During these times, he also held many other roles, even buying the Detroit Lions football team in 1963.
Ford retired from his Committee positions in 1989 and 1995 respectively, before retiring from the board itself in 2005, named Director Emeritus thereafter. He is survived by his wife Martha Firestone Ford; daughters Martha Ford Morse, Sheila Ford Hamp, and Elizabeth Ford Kontulis; son William Clay Ford, Jr.; 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. William Clay Ford Jr. paid tribute to his father, calling him a "great business leader" who "dedicated his life to the company and the community".
A funeral service will be held privately, and in lieu of flowers, contributions should be sent to either the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, or Dr. Scott Dulchavsky’s Innovation Institute at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.