Alaska Congressman Dies at 88

Representative Don Young (R., Alaska) takes a Zoom call at his desk, June 2020. (Wikimedia Commons)

Representative Don Young (R., Alaska), the longest serving member of the current Congress, died on Friday at the age of 88, his office said in a statement.

“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,” the statement said. “His beloved wife Anne was by his side.”

Young was the dean of the House, the most senior member of either party, and was reelected in 2020 to serve his 25th term. He was running for a 26th. Asked in 2020 how long he planned to serve, Young told the New York Times

He served on the House Natural Resources and House Transportation and Infrastructure committees during the current Congress.

His office described him as a “fierce defender of Alaska,” adding, “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.”

Young first entered politics when he was elected mayor of Fort Yukon, Alaska in 1964. He later served four years in the Alaska House and three years in the state Senate.

He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in a special election in 1973.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) said in a statement: “Alaskans are devastated by this shocking and sad news and 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.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) called Young “a dedicated patriot and public servant.”

“For five decades, he was an institution in the hallowed halls of Congress: a serious legislator always bringing people together to do the People’s work,” she 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.”

The congressman’s office said it will share additional information about plans for a “celebration of his life and legacy” soon.

Young is survived by his wife Anne and his two children.

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