Don Young (R-Alaska) passed away, according to his office. He was 88 years old. He was the longest member to serve in Congress. Young’s cause of death has yet to be determined. He died at Los Angeles International Airport when he was on his way home to Alaska. He left his wife Anne and his two children behind when he passed. His office declares that they will be giving out more information about his legacy and celebration of life plans soon.
It’s with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we announce Congressman Don Young (R-AK), the Dean of the House and revered champion for Alaska, passed away today while traveling home to Alaska to be with the state and people that he loved. His beloved wife Anne was by his side.
In 2020, Young was re-elected for his 25th term as the single representative from Alaska. He was the of the House. Dean of the House is a symbol of the longest-serving member. He was running for his 26th term when he passed away.
He is remembered as a “fierce defender of Alaska” by the congressman’s office. His office states that he battled for so much for his constituents from the Ketchikan Shipyard to the Magnuson Stevens Act that transfigured the fishing industry in America to the Trans-Alaskan pipeline, his legacy cannot be overstated.
Young also served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure and House Natural Resources boards.
Young was born on June 9, 1933, north of Sacramento in Meridian, California, according to his congressional biography. He received his associate’s degree at Yuba Junior College and his bachelor’s degree from Chico State College for teaching. He served in the United States Army’s Tank Battalion between his degrees from 1955 to 1957.
His entrance to public service was in 1964. He was elected as mayor for Fort Yukon, Alaska. He served four years in Alaska’s House and three years in the state Senate.
After a successful election win, Young was sworn into the United States House of Representatives on March 6, 1973.
Young worked to permit the Trans-Alaska Pipeline not long after reaching Capitol Hill. According to his biography, the congressman frequently spoke of it as his most significant achievement as a member of Congress. His biography read:
Next to statehood itself, the most historical legislation passed that affected every Alaskan then, now, and in the future, was the passage of the pipeline legislation.
In a statement made on Friday by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).”
[I am] saddened beyond belief about the loss of my friend. We have lost a giant who we loved dearly and who held Alaska in his heart — always. Don was coming home to the place that he loved, and to the people that loved him best.
Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy remembers Young as a good friend who, in numerous ways, made Alaska into the great state it has become. He said that Young is the congressman Alaska will never forget and that the state is a better place because of Young.
The House Speaker, Nanci Pelosi (D-Calif.), stated that Young was a dedicated public service member and patriot. For 50 years, Young was a fixture in the empty halls of Congress, a vital legislator who constantly brought others together to do the people’s work. Pelosi said:
The photographs of him with ten presidents of both parties who signed his bills into law that proudly cover the walls of his Rayburn office are a testament to his longevity and his legislative mastery.
Speaker Pelosi has ordered the flags at the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-staff due to the passing of Dean of the House Don Young.
— Drew Hammill (@Drew_Hammill) March 19, 2022
The congressman said in a 2019 video that he never thought of serving in office as a child, but then he stated that he enjoyed every second of being in Congress; the work is challenging but rewarding.
At the beginning of Young’s 24th term starting in 2019, he surpassed the tenure of Joseph Gurney Cannon of Illinois, who followed the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates and served 23 terms in the House.
In 2020, The New York Times asked the congressman how long he would serve. Young responded, “God will decide that, or the voters.”
President Joe Biden signed a government funding bill into law on Tuesday. Congressman Young was able to secure over $23 million to aid projects in Alaska. One of the projects that receive help from that bill is the replacement of the Kodiak Fire Station which was originally built in the 1940s. In addition, that same bill will pay for replacing a clinic.
The congressman may have been most known for attempting to fund what some call the two Bridges to Nowhere. In 2004, the cost of that project was estimated at $2.2 billion. One of the bridges would have replaced a ferry that linked Ketchikan, in the southeast area of Alaska, with an island about a mile offshore consisting of 50 people and an airport.
The other bridge Young was trying to fund would be two miles long and connect Anchorage to a little peninsular port that had one business tenant. The idea sat in the books for years, but the project was never completed.
Based on a report made by The Wall Street Journal in 2007, the congressman was federally investigated under the impression he was accepting bribes, gifts that were not reported, and illegal gratuities from the VECO oil service company based in Anchorage. Two of the top executives plead guilty to bribing state legislators in Alaska. The congressman allegedly received $157,000 in 10 years from political action committees and VECO executives. Young had no charges brought against him.
Written by Jeanette Vietti and Marrissa Kay
The New York Times: Don Young, Alaska Congressman and Dean of the House, Dies at 88; by Robert D, McFadden
CNN: Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican, and dean of the House, has died; by Annie Grayer, Kristin Wilson, and Shawna Mizelle
Fox News: Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican, dead at 88; by Andrew Mark Miller and Kyle Morris
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Inline Image Courtesy of The West End’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License