Longest-serving U.S. Congressman Don Young of Alaska dies

Republican Representative Don Young, who was first elected to Congress in 1973 and was its longest-serving current member, died Friday, his office said in a statement.

The 88-year-old congressman died while returning home to Alaska, his office said.

“Don Young’s legacy as a fighter for the state will live on, as will his fundamental goodness and honor. He will be greatly missed,” the statement read.

His office did not give the cause of death.

Jack Ferguson, who had served as Young’s chief of staff, told the Anchorage Daily News that Young lost consciousness on a flight from Los Angeles to Seattle and could not be revived.

Republican Representative Don Young, who was first elected to Congress in 1973 and was its longest-serving current member, died on Friday

Young was Alaska’s only member of the House of Representatives. The longest-serving member of the current US Congress, he has represented Alaska for 25 terms and last year filed for election in November, according to his website.

“I am incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of Don Young,” U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 2 Republican in the House, said in a statement.

“He was a passionate champion of his home state of Alaska, but he was also a mentor who, as Dean of the House, had more institutional knowledge of Congress than anyone I know,” said Scalise.

Young, R-Alaska, is pictured with his wife Anne Garland Walton by President Boehner's office at the United States Capitol in 2015

Young, R-Alaska, is pictured with his wife Anne Garland Walton by President Boehner’s office at the United States Capitol in 2015

Young was Alaska's only member of the House of Representatives.  The longest-serving member of the current US Congress, according to his website.  He is pictured with his wife Anne Garland Walton

Young was Alaska’s only member of the House of Representatives. The longest-serving member of the current US Congress, according to his website. He is pictured with his wife Anne Garland Walton

U.S. Representative Dean Phillips, a Democrat from Minnesota, said on Twitter, “His fiercely independent voice for Alaska and his unique spirit and character will be missed.”

Young was born in California in 1933 and moved to Alaska in 1959, shortly after its inception.

In Congress, he was known for directing billions of federal dollars to Alaska, the nation’s largest state but with one of the smallest populations.

In late 2020, Young was diagnosed with COVID-19 after ridiculing the disease by calling it a “beer virus.”

Politicians on both sides of the aisle paid tribute to Young.

“Alaskans are devastated by this shocking and sad news and I am saddened beyond belief by the loss of my friend. We have lost a giant that we loved very much and who always held Alaska in his heart. Don was coming back to the place he loved and the people who loved him the most. We love you, Don,” said U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

“Don Young was a giant, with a heart as big as the Capitol and a mind as strong as the Alaskan wilderness. He was the longest serving Republican in congressional history – working with ten presidents and nine presidents. He was chair of several committees, Dean of the House and mentor to all of us. No one has worked harder for his state and his people than Don,’ added House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Young was born in California in 1933 and moved to Alaska in 1959, shortly after its inception.  In Congress, he was known for directing billions of federal dollars to Alaska, the nation's largest state but with one of the smallest populations.  He is pictured in Congress in his younger years

Young was born in California in 1933 and moved to Alaska in 1959, shortly after its inception. In Congress, he was known for directing billions of federal dollars to Alaska, the nation’s largest state but with one of the smallest populations. He is pictured in Congress in his younger years

Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg admitted they hadn’t always agreed, but he had enjoyed working with a seasoned politician.

‘The first time we spoke, Don Young happily informed me that I was the 17th secretary he was dealing with at DOT. Our policy was not the same, but it was always a pleasure to work with him. A true character, he shaped America’s infrastructure in so many ways and will be deeply missed.

“Some of my favorite stories as Republican House Whip are about Don Young. No one has represented his state better or with more determination than Don Young has represented Alaska. added U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri.

“Congressman Don Young has been a great friend and colleague for many years. I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of this incredible man who in many ways made Alaska the great state it is today. – Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy.

“As the longest-serving U.S. Congressman and Dean of the House, he was one of Alaska’s greatest champions. His tireless work for Alaska over the past 49 years has had a tremendous impact on many generations – Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson.

“Sad to hear the news of Don Young’s passing. Don was not only the Dean of the House, he was also a dear friend and a true Congressional legend. Don was a tireless fighter for Alaska who loved the outdoors, including his trips to Louisiana to fish. Don will be sorely missed. – Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La

“An absolutely heartbreaking loss for Congress, Alaska and the United States of America. As Dean, Don Young was an institution in the House of Representatives, loved and revered by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. Almost every member of Congress has a one-of-a-kind story of their first interaction with Don Young. He was a tireless and outstanding advocate for the people of Alaska. He spent every day doing what he loved – bringing his gargantuan voice and outsized leadership on behalf of Alaskans. He was friends with so many people. I was proud to call him a friend and a colleague. The sudden passing of Don Young leaves a hole in our hearts and he is simply irreplaceable at the House of the People. Our deepest prayers and condolences go out to his beloved family, friends, dedicated staff and constituents. – Rep. Elise Stefanik, RN.Y.

“Sad to learn of the passing of longtime Alaska Representative Don Young, he was a dedicated friend and public servant God bless his family during this difficult time.” – US Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

Young, R-Alaska, speaks at a press conference, alongside Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, (left) and Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Laws on the marijuana

Young, R-Alaska, speaks at a press conference, alongside Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, (left) and Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Laws on the marijuana

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