"I consider Bud one of the founders of the game of professional football because of his role in helping to create the American Football League," Dallas owner Jerry Jones said.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell described Adams as a pioneer and innovator.
"As a founding owner of the American Football League that began play in 1960, Bud saw the potential of pro football and brought the game to new cities and new heights of popularity, first in Houston and then in Nashville," Goodell said.
Kenneth Stanley Adams Jr. was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, to the future chief executive of Phillips Petroleum Co., K.S. "Boots" Adams.
Adams joined Dallas oilman Lamar Hunt on Aug. 3, 1959, when they announced the AFL would begin competing with the NFL at a news conference in Adams' office. Adams founded one of the new league's charter franchises.
The NFL retaliated by placing the Cowboys in Dallas and tried to get into Houston, but Adams held the lease to the one available stadium.
"I wanted to be the only pro team," Adams said in a 2002 interview with The Associated Press.
He won a major battle with the NFL in June 1960, shortly before the AFL's debut, when a judge ruled Louisiana State Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon — who signed with the Oilers underneath the goalposts after the Sugar Bowl that year — was their property despite having later signed with the NFL's Los Angeles Rams.
"It was a big step for us," Adams said.
The Oilers won the first two AFL titles and reached the championship game four times during the 1960s. In 1968, the Oilers became the first indoor football team when they moved into the 3-year-old Astrodome.
Meanwhile, Adams quietly became one of the nation's wealthiest oilmen as his ADA Oil Co. evolved into the publicly traded Adams Resources & Energy Inc., a Fortune 500 company based in Houston. His business interests included farming and ranching in Texas and California, cattle feeding, real estate and automobile sales.
He also was a major collector of western art and Indian artifacts and maintained a private gallery at his corporate headquarters.