Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says William Clay Ford was one of his struggling city's biggest boosters.
The 88-year-old Detroit Lions owner and grandson of auto pioneer Henry Ford has died of pneumonia.
Duggan says in a statement that William Clay Ford's dedication to Detroit "was never more evident than ... with his decision to move the Detroit Lions back downtown."
The NFL team now plays at Ford Field. Redevelopment is well underway in Detroit's downtown, even as city neighborhoods continue to lose residents and housing stock.
The mayor says that "vote of confidence in Detroit was an important piece of the redevelopment of downtown that has since taken place."
Ford was the father of Ford Motor Co. executive chairman Bill Ford.
Comments from people who knew Ford Sr:
"The Fords are among Michigan's iconic, founding families, and he was an innovator in the family tradition as well as a strong leader. Like his grandfather, he was passionate about automobiles and the auto industry, the city of Detroit and his family. He embodied the resilience, ingenuity and leadership that brought Ford Motor Co. and Detroit great success, and sustained both through tough times." - Gov. Rick Snyder.
"His leadership, integrity, kindness, humility and good humor were matched only by his desire to bring a Super Bowl championship to the Lions and to our community. Each of us in the organization will continue to relentlessly pursue that goal in his honor." - Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand.
"In so many NFL locker rooms, if the owner is around, players put their heads down and hope not to get noticed. In Detroit, I noticed right away that players would go up to him to say hello. One time, I hollered, `Big Willie is in the house,' when he walked in the locker room. Some guys were looking at me like I was about to get cut, but then Mr. Ford later came over and cracked up about it." - Ex-Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers receiver Johnnie Morton.
"My father was a great business leader and humanitarian who dedicated his life to the company and the community. He also was a wonderful family man, a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, yet he will continue to inspire us all." - Bill Ford, executive chairman, Ford Motor Co.
"His accomplishments in business, both in the automotive industry and in professional sports as the proud owner of the Lions, were exceeded only by his many civic and charitable contributions." - Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores.
"He led with a memorable blend of class, dignity and unwavering commitment to our community and his legacy will always be a source of pride for our city, state and nation." - Detroit Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch.
"As an NFL owner, Mr. Ford helped bring the NFL through enormous periods of change and growth, always guided by his commitment to what was best for the NFL and his beloved Lions." - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.