Jerry Richardson Death, founder and former owner of the Panthers, died at 86 –
Carolina Panthers founder Jerry Richardson died Wednesday night at the age of 86. A native son shaped by the region, his personal journey ultimately brought professional football to the Carolinas and left an indelible mark on the region he loved.
“Jerry Richardson’s contribution to professional football in Carolina is historic,” Panthers owners David and Nicole Tepper said in a statement. “He changed the sports landscape in the area with the arrival of the Panthers in 1995 and gave NFL fans here a team of their own. I am very well and for that I am grateful. Nicole and I offer our deepest condolences to Rosalind, the entire Richardson family and loved ones. We wish them peace and comfort.”
Jerome J. Richardson was born on July 18, 1936 in Spring Hope, North Carolina, the first step in a journey that transformed the Carolinas. After growing up in the Fayetteville area, Richardson attended Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina; there, he excelled in football and laid the foundations of a business empire that would enable him to return to his A game that was once far away.
He still holds the school record for receiving yards in a game (241 against Newbury in 1956), as well as the records for receiving touchdowns in a season (nine) and career (21). This performance earned him Associated Press Junior All-American honors in 1957 and 1958, and he was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1959.
With the Colts, he paired with quarterback Johnny Unitas and caught a touchdown pass from the Hall of Famer in the 1959 NFL Championship Game. But after his sophomore season, he left the NFL over money disputes and returned to Spartanburg to start his business career. He used the championship winnings as seed capital to open his first Hardee’s restaurant in Spartanburg.
There, he began to focus on customer service, which would carry over to his leadership of the football team. When he owned the team, Richardson often cited the lessons he learned selling hamburgers. He stops by restaurants now and then to check and sticks his head out in the drive-thru line to surprise customers and employees alike.
This attention to detail is not unlike his days as Panthers owner, when he approved landscape plan details on the field paint (native plants from the states on the north and south sides of the stadium represent the two Carolinas). On game days, he drove around Bank of America Stadium in his golf cart, greeting fans and posing for photos, enjoying the moment.
But before he blahs on about those games and basks in the adulation of bringing the NFL to Carolina, he has to deliver them. Richardson began building a football team in July 1987, when he met with former Bank of America CEO and Charlotte icon Hugh McColl to discuss his dream of bringing the game to his hometown.
With the arrival of the NBA Hornets in 1988, Charlotte had become a professional sports city, but in those days the city was trying to forge an identity that wasn’t still associated with Charleston, South Carolina, or Charlotte, Virginia. The associated regional outpost of Tswil. , is still a few years away from becoming a national banking center.
The decisions made changed the face of the sports industry. He hired sports marketing manager Max Muhleman, and they rolled out the first perpetual licensing concept, letting fans pay for season tickets in advance. The Panthers were the first team to embrace the concept, and the influx of cash was crucial to privately funding what was then known as Carolina Stadium.
But until Oct. 26, 1993 — the day Richardson landed the NFL’s 29th team — it remained a dream for everyone but Richardson.