The longest-serving member in the U.S. House of Representatives and Alaska’s only Representative, Don Young, passed away on Concourse B at LAX as he was traveling home to Alaska on Friday. He was 88 years of age. His wife was by his side.
Representative Young was born in Meridian, Sutter County, California on June 9th, 1933, and remained in that state and attended Yuba College before joining the Army in 1955. After two years in the Army, Young would return to California and enroll in college again, this time at Chico State, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree.
Shortly after college, Mr. Young packed up and moved to Alaska in 1959 soon after it became a state. Living in Fort Yukon, Mr. Young mined gold, fished, captained a tug boat and taught 5th grade during the winter months at the BIA elementary school.
By 1964, Mr. Young was elected Mayor of Fort Yukon and held that position until 1968, and was also elected to the district seat in the House of Representatives from 1967 to 1971. He next tried his hand at the Alaska Senate in 1971, won the election and served until 1973.
As he served in the State Senate, he threw his hat into the ring to serve as the state’s representative to the U.S. House, but lost to Nick Begich, but Begich would be lost to a plane crash that same year and in a special election, Mr. Young won the seat in March of 1973.
Representative Young would hold that seat until his death, serving 25 terms. He had intentions of taking the seat again in his 26th campaign.
He would become the Dean of the House of Representatives following the resignation of John Conyers on December 5th, 2017.
In a statement from his D.C. office, Zack Brown wrote:
“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.
A fierce defender of Alaska since elected to Congress in 1973, nearly everything that has advanced for Alaska is a result of Don Young’s tenacious work. From the Trans-Alaska pipeline, to the Ketchikan Shipyard, to the Magnuson Stevens Act, which transformed the American fishing industry, to the numerous land exchanges he fought for, Don Young’s legacy cannot be overstated.
“Every day, I try to do something for somebody and some group,” Congressman Young once said. “And every day I try to learn something new. We all go into the ground the same way. The only thing we leave behind are our accomplishments.”
Don Young’s legacy as a fighter for the state will live on, as will his fundamental goodness and his honor. We will miss him dearly. His family, his staff, and his many friends ask Alaskans for their prayers during this difficult time.
In the coming days, we will be sharing more details about plans for a celebration of his life and his legacy.”
Governor Mike Dunleavy and First Lady Rose Dunleavy issued a statement, saying,
“Congressman Don Young has been a great friend of mine for many years. I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of this amazing man who, in many ways, formed Alaska into the great state it is today. Hours after being sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives, he was leading the historic battle for approval of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline. Shortly after, he was impressively honored in 1973 as the ‘Freshman Congressman of the Year.’ This is the Congressman whom Alaska will remember forever. Alaska is a better place because of Don Young. Rose and I offer our prayers to his family during this difficult time.”
According to the Governor’s Office, “The Governor will order that Alaska state flags and the United States flags fly at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on dates to be determined in the near future.”