SS William Clay Ford

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The pilot house from the William Clay Ford

The SS William Clay Ford was a bulk freighter built for hauling material on the Great Lakes. She was named for William Clay Ford, Sr., grandson of Henry Ford, Sr. Her keel was laid in 1952 at River Rouge, MI by the Great Lakes Engineering Works, and she was launched in 1953. She was a part of the Ford Motor Company fleet of ore carriers and made her home port at the Ford's River Rouge Plant, south of Detroit, Michigan. The first captain of the William Clay Ford was John Jameson Pearce of Dearborn, Michigan.

On the night of November 10, 1975, the lake freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald was reported lost. The SS William Clay Ford was one of two ships involved in the initial search. Because of the bravery and valor demonstrated that night by Captain Don Erickson and his crew, they were presented with many accolades including a plaque bestowed upon them by the Great Lakes Maritime Institute recognizing her role in the search for the Edmund Fitzgerald. It reads "On the night of November 10–11, 1975, these men voluntarily left a safe harbor to face the dangers of gale force winds and vicious seas, in the blackness of a storm which had already claimed as a victim the steamer Edmund Fitzgerald, to search for possible survivors of that disaster, exemplifying the finest traditions of the maritime profession."

In 1979 the hull of the William Clay Ford was lengthened 120 feet.

In 1984 ownership was transferred to the Rouge Steel Corporation. In December 1984, she hauled her last load of cargo from Duluth, Minnesota to Rouge Basin, south of Detroit.

In 1985 she was renamed US 266029, her registry number, as a newly renamed SS William Clay Ford (2) was put into the fleet.

In August 1986, US 266029 was towed from her moorings to the Detroit Marine Terminal where the pilot house was removed for display at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Detroit's Belle Isle. The hull was scrapped in Port Maitland, Ontario in 1987.

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