Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill dies at age 88

Oct. 2 (UPI) — Longtime Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill died Wednesday while surrounded by loved ones, the team announced Wednesday. He was 88.

“Our dad passed away today the same way he lived his life: peacefully, with grace, dignity and surrounded by family and loved ones,” Bidwill’s son, Cardinals team president Michael Bidwill, said in a statement. “We are overwhelmed by the support our family has received, not only now but throughout the latest chapter of his life.

“We are especially grateful to the nurses, doctors and other caregivers whose endless kindness and compassion in recent years have made our dad’s life so meaningful. Above all else, we will remember him as a man devoted to the three central pillars of his life — his immense faith, his love for his family and his life-long passion for the Cardinals and the sport of football.”

Bill Bidwill’s father, Charles, purchased the then-Chicago Cardinals in 1932, associating Bill with the team for eight decades. He started as a ball boy during his childhood and eventually worked in a full-time position for the team in 1960, the Cardinals’ first season in St. Louis.

Bill Bidwill, who also served in the Navy, became the owner in 1972, with the Cardinals moving to Arizona in 1988.

Michael Bidwill has served as the Cardinals’ team president since 2007, when Bill gave up day-to-day operations of the team.

Under Bill Bidwill’s ownership, the Cardinals had five winning seasons from 1972 until Ken Whisenhunt was hired as head coach in 2007, Michael’s first year running the team. The Cardinals reached their first and only Super Bowl the next season.

Despite the franchise’s lack of success, Bill Bidwill was one of the NFL’s leaders in embracing diversity. He employed the first African American female executive, Adele Harris, in league history, the NFL’s first black contract negotiator, Bob Wallace, and the NFL’s first black head coach-general manager tandem, Dennis Green and Rod Graves.

Bill and his wife, Nancy, were married for 56 years before she died in 2016. He is survived by his five children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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