Richard Cunniff, Ralph Wilson, Adolfo Suarez: Obits This Week

This week’s notable deaths included the co-founder of the Sequoia Fund; the last surviving creator of the American Football League and owner of the Buffalo Bills; a former U.S. secretary of defense; the prime minister of Spain who led the country from dictatorship to democracy; and a former New Yorker staff writer who wrote about the horrors of war.

Richard Cunniff, 91, was the vice chairman of the Sequoia Fund, which he founded with William Ruane in 1970. Sequoia, which had $8.4 billion under management as of Dec. 31, has outperformed market benchmarks for much of its history. Cunniff and Ruane were disciples of famed value investor Benjamin Graham and many of their earliest clients were referred to them by Warren Buffett. Died March 23 at his home in Lloyd Harbor, New York, of complications from congestive heart failure.

Ralph Wilson, 95, was the first and only principal owner of the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he was the last surviving founder of the American Football League and only original AFL owner who had kept his team in its originating city. The Bills made it to an unprecedented four consecutive Super Bowls in the early 1990s, none resulting in victory. Died March 25 at his home in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, while in hospice care.

James Schlesinger, 85, served as U.S. secretary of defense under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He then became the first head of the Energy Department, which was created by President Jimmy Carter’s administration. His private sector career included director of strategic studies at Rand Corp. and senior adviser at Lehman Brothers, Kuhn Loeb Inc. Died March 27 of complications from pneumonia.

Adolfo Suarez, 81, led Spain from dictatorship to democracy as the country’s first elected prime minister after the death of Francisco Franco in 1975. He suffered from neurological disease for the past decade and could no longer remember running Spain’s government. Died March 23 in Madrid’s Cemtro Clinic hospital.

Jonathan Schell, 70, a former staff writer at the New Yorker, was the author of best-selling nonfiction books including “The Village of Ben Suc” about the destruction of a South Vietnamese village by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. His best-known book was “The Fate of the Earth,” an argument for nuclear disarmament, which was judged by a New York University panel as one of the 100 best works of journalism in the 20th century. Died March 25 of cancer at his home in Brooklyn, New York.

Jeremiah Denton, 89, was a former one-term U.S. senator who had survived captivity as a prisoner during the Vietnam War. A retired U.S. Navy rear admiral, in 1980 Denton became the first Republican to represent Alabama in the Senate since Reconstruction. Died March 28 of complications from a heart ailment at a hospice facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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