CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WSPA) – The former owner of the Carolina Panthers, Jerry Richardson, passed away Wednesday evening at the age of 86.

Long before Richardson’s fame of being Carolina Panther’s owner, he went to Wofford College where he played football on a partial scholarship.

Following his college career, he was drafted by the Baltimore Colts.

After two seasons in the NFL, he came back to Spartanburg and opened his first Hardee’s restaurant.

While running a restaurant, Richardson was in the process of building the Carolina Panthers in 1987 when he met with former Bank of America CEO High McColl to discuss his dream.

On October 26, 1993, Richardson was awarded the NFL’s 29th franchise.

He brought the team to the Carolinas in 1995.

“There aren’t a lot of people who have had the impact on the Carolinas like he has. To have a team branded, not the Charlotte Panthers, but the Carolina Panthers. One team, two states,” said Wofford Athletic Director Richard Johnson.

Richardson’s life was not without some controversy. In 2017, he sold his team after allegations of sexist and racist misconduct in the workplace. The team was bought by the current owner, David Tepper, in May 2018.

In February 2021, Richardson made a $150 million gift to Wofford, pushing his personal contributions to the school to over a quarter of a billion dollars.

“I was devastated when I learned the news. Mr. Richardson has meant a lot to the institution,” said Johnson. “There’s no one that I know of that has done more for Wofford Students then Mr. Richardson has.”

Johnson said Richardson’s contributions have made Wofford a different place.

“With four Richardson buildings and a pavilion named after him, how he’s transformed the physical campus and that goes back to 1995, actually 1993, when he acquired the Panthers and was willing to bring them here for training camp,” he said.

Johnson said the dedicated Wofford Terriers generosity will continue to serve future generations of students.

“Personally, for me, it’s a big loss. I just look forward to his visits and I learned a lot from him. He was great, I tried to immolate what he did,” said Johnson.

David Tepper and his wife, Nicole released the following statement about Richardson’s passing:

Jerry Richardson’s contributions to professional football in the Carolinas are historic. With the arrival of the Panthers in 1995, he changed the landscape of sports in the region and gave the NFL fans here a team to call their own. He was incredibly gracious to me when I purchased the team, and for that I am thankful. Nicole and I extend our deepest condolences to Rosalind, the entire Richardson family, and their loved ones. We wish them much peace and comfort.

(This story has been corrected to remove a paragraph regarding the name of Wofford’s football stadium.)