He Was a Congressman Almost as Long as His State Was a State

Don Young of Alaska, longest-serving member of House of Representatives, dies at 88
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 19, 2022 7:00 AM CDT
Longest-Serving Member of House Dies at 88
In this June 28, 2019, file photo, US Rep. Don Young is seen in Anchorage, Alaska.   (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

Alaska gets one member in the US House of Representatives, and for most of the time that it's been a state, that member has been Don Young. On Friday, the Last Frontier bid farewell to Young, 88, the dean of the House as its longest-serving member, who died while traveling home with his wife, Anne. He was 88, reports CBS News. Jack Ferguson, Young's former chief of staff, tells the Anchorage Daily News that Young lost consciousness on a flight from Los Angeles to Seattle and couldn't be revived.

"I'm sad to lose such a good friend, and a person that I've known all his political career," Ferguson says. Young, of Fort Yukon, started serving in Congress in 1973, under somewhat strange circumstances: He won a special election to replace Democrat Nick Begich, whose small plane vanished in October 1972 while en route from Anchorage to Juneau. The plane, Begich, and the three others on the aircraft were never found.

A statement from Young's office details some of his accomplishments. "Nearly everything that has advanced for Alaska is a result of Don Young's tenacious work," it notes. "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."

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The Daily News notes Young was also known for making colorful, even "inflammatory" remarks at times, and that former speaker of the House John Boehner once claimed Young held a knife to his throat (Boehner subsequently was the best man at Young's wedding). Young had planned to run for his 26th term this year. His leading GOP opponent: Begich's grandson Nick Begich III. "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," Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a fellow Republican, tweeted Friday evening. (More Don Young stories.)

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