Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Remembering William Clay Ford Sr.

March 10, 2014 Think THF

Portrait of William Clay Ford, 1949 (Object ID: P.833.89050).

William Clay Ford, grandson of Henry Ford, was the longest standing Chairman of the Board of The Henry Ford. He held the position for 38 years from 1951-1989. Through his vision and leadership, the institution, founded in 1929 by his grandfather, began its transformative evolution to the premier American history destination that it is today.

Mr. Ford recognized the national significance of The Henry Ford, its unparalleled collections and educational importance and he was committed throughout his life to the ongoing health and vitality of the institution.

As the largest donor in the history of the institution, his generosity helped restore Greenfield Village and build new visitor experiences in Henry Ford Museum, most notably, "With Liberty and Justice for All" and "Driving America," the country’s most significant automotive exhibition. During his tenure as Chairman of our Board from 1951 to 1989, he influenced the addition of many visitor amenities and collecting initiatives including programs such as Old Car Festival, Motor Muster and Hallowe'en in Greenfield Village, the acquisitions of John F. Kennedy’s Limousine, Firestone Farm, the Allegheny and the DC3 and the building of Greenfield Village’s railroad to name just a few.

In recognition and honor of Mr. Ford’s many contributions, the museum hall was named the William Clay Ford Hall of American Innovation.

At the time of his passing, Mr. Ford was Chair Emeritus, serving The Henry Ford for a total of 63 years. In recent years, he visited the institution often and enjoyed touring the archives, the Village and museum exhibitions.

Recently, when recounting his memories of The Henry Ford, Mr. Ford simply said, “I was brought up with it.” He spoke fondly of roller skating and riding bicycles on the floor of Henry Ford Museum and spending time with his grandparents Henry and Clara Ford in Greenfield Village as a child.

We are deeply saddened by this loss and grateful for Mr. Ford’s lifelong dedication and commitment to The Henry Ford. He will be greatly missed.

We encourage you to take a moment and share your thoughts or memories honoring Mr. Ford’s legacy. Visit our online collections to see more images of Mr. Ford.

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