A year since the ending of the era of Congressman Don Young

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On March 18, 2022, Alaska and American history took a huge turn, when Congressman Don Young died while on a flight back to Alaska. He had served the state for 49 years in Congress, and before that as a state House and Senate member, and the mayor of Fort Yukon. When he died at age 88, he was the longest-serving Republican in the history of the U.S. Congress; he had worked with 10 different presidents, starting with President Richard Nixon and ending with Joe Biden.

Young was born on June 9, 1933 in Meridian, Calif. After earning a bachelor’s degree in teaching from Chico State University and serving in the U.S. Army, he moved to Alaska in 1959 and settled in the village of Fort Yukon, seven miles north of the Arctic Circle, where he became a school teacher, tugboat captain, miner, and trapper. From 1964 to 1967 he was the mayor of the predominantly Gwich’in Athabascan village. He married Lula Young in Fort Yukon and they had two daughters, Dawn and Joni, and later 14 grandchildren. After Lu’s death in 2009, he met and married Ann Garland Walton in 2015.

Young served as chair of the Natural Resources Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives. He was chairman of the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs.

Known for being both irascible and able to work across the aisle with all political perspectives, among his notable achievements was working to ensure the authorization of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System and important amendments and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Young authored and advocated for the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act in 1975, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1976, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 in 1997, SAFETEA-LU in 2005, Multinational Species Conservation Funds Reauthorization Act of 2007, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021.

After his death, Gov. Mike Dunleavy called for a special election, as required by statute, and although Nick Begich was already a candidate for the position, having filed to challenge Young in the previous October, several dozen other Alaskans put their names in for the seat, including former Gov. Sarah Palin.

In the end, Alaska elected Democrat Mary Peltola to fill the temporary seat for the long-time Republican, and Peltola then went on to win the two-year spot in Congress, where she serves today, the first Democrat to represent Alaska in Congress since former Rep. Nick Begich Sr. died in a plane crash in 1972 en route to Juneau from Anchorage. Her tenure has been marked by extreme partisanship.

“It’s been a year now since we lost Don Young.  As I reflect upon his life it seems only fitting that he passed on his way home to Alaska. The place that he loved.  For Don Young was all about Alaska – truly the congressman for all Alaska. Even after 49 years in office Don was tireless, even relentless in his advocacy for legislation and initiatives that benefitted Alaska.  Don did everything in his own gruff, feisty, and passionate style. He was a force of nature.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski said. “He strongly supported Alaska Native peoples, led the authorization of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, improved Alaskans’ access to public lands, and so much more. He was a big help in our fight to open Willow and would have been pleased with the news this week. I think about him every day, and miss his tough and loving spirit. He was Alaskan to his core, and I’m forever grateful for all that he did for our state and its people.”

Since Young’s passing, Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan have introduced measures honoring the late congressman, including:

  • Resolution Honoring Congressman Don Young
  • The Don Young Arctic Warrior Act, legislation to alleviate some of the hardships faced by service members in Alaska, most of which was signed into law in December 2022.
  • The Don Young Recognition Act, which designated one of the most active volcanoes in the Aleutian Islands, formerly known as Mount Cerberus, as Mount Young; the federal office building in Fairbanks as the Don Young Federal Office Building; and the Job Corps Center in Palmer as the Don Young Alaska Job Corps Center. It became law in December 2022. 

19 COMMENTS

  1. What a load of crap from Lisa, she takes a dump on his legacy every day.
    You want to honor him, resign Lisa, Mary and Dan. You stopped representing us voting for deb haaland and mary, your go along with all things dumbocrats is an abomination to his memory.
    None of you fight for us, we see it every day and are helpless to get ANY OF YOU THREE to do the right things for us and our economy.
    You are bankrupt in your heart and soul, missing any American or Alaskan spirit.
    Stop killing America
    Stop killing Alaska

  2. I respect all the things Don did for Alaska.

    Sadly, his tenure is marred by the thing that brings down all politicians. His ego.

    For a decade there was a growing call for Don to choose a successor, groom him/her, and publicly position them to follow him. Especially after two closer than should have been contests with Galvin.

    Instead he wanted to serve for 50 years. He didn’t make it. And we are stuck with Mary.

    • He did tell Nick Begich to run and Truman Reed to work on Nick’s campaign after both had been heavily involved in Don’s 2020 campaign. But then he decided to run again, passed away, and everyone came out of the woodwork to run. Had Don not run and backed Nick, Don might have persuaded those who couldn’t get past Nick’s last name and/or were entranced by the bright shiny object known as Sarah that Nick was a better option.

  3. And one whole year later there is still no Anchorage office for his replacement. I drove over to Congressman Young’s office on 36th Avenue in Midtown yesterday. The large sign is still out front, there are still two assigned parking places for constituents, and the office is still empty. What’s the deal Mary?

  4. There is no question in my mind that Sarah Palin had a plan in mind, waiting for DY to croak, whether it was in 2022 or later. The opportunist that she is, it took only 10 days for her to fool the public once again, appropriately on April Fools Day. She’s abused Alaskans for the last time. She has run out of plans for a comeback. A very mentally unstable woman that Alaska needs to move away from.

  5. Constituents aren’t real since Don died. Don’s office took complaints even for the Muni. I complained about Austin-Quinn Davidson’s regime how she was in contact with the Democrats while the disabled were ignored by the few people who came to work during “Covid”. While the Democrats didn’t give a darn Don and his people wanted to know – the details!

  6. Our leaders -past and present- do God’s will. “bad” or controversial decisions neared our LORD’s return closer, which is a good thing. The only reason that makes sense why our leaders made some contrary decisions. Our Don completed God’s will for his life, just
    as we have some fine leaders who heard the call to lead from boards/commissions, councils, assembly, mayor, legislature all working to either bring our glorious Lord return closer or bring His salvation to a multitude through their decrees.

    • Yes, the not so secret death wish that is inherent in all of the world’s monotheisms. The wish for this world to come to an end. The bizarre beliefs of a cult like yours belong to the abject childhood of our species. Keep your mind-forged manacle to yourself.

  7. Judie , blaming Palin is a total reach, the hatred people like you have for her is obviously all about the jealousy thing( her Looks and prior accomplishments) as it is for many Alaskans who have dropped the ball on what’s going on around them , and other liberal progressives who despise people who have a clear View of their own. I’ve seen people who loved her(Palin) until she took the offer from a later proven RINO John MCCain to be his VP, then they instantly turned on her. She started exposing corruption in Alaskan Politics/and Else where When she was Governor and before on Both sides of the Isle while she was Governor and probably would have been Destroyed by the same crooks back then who are trying to a destroy trump now, the real problem is many Alaskans have fallin asleep and aloud for these RINOs and Liberal activist to get a foothold in their state, and unless they Wake the Hell up and fight back with vengeance now, Alaska will become a permanently blue state. The loons on the left are using Government to infiltrate The Public sector all over the Country, and they are working their plan, this has been going on for at least 20 years, but it has progressed rapidly since Barry Obama served 2 terms. These People are Radicle Fanatics and their goal is for a One World Government. Attacking Palin for something the Alaskan People allowed to happen while they slept is on the Alaskan People and their Naive Trust ! So I would say rather then attack others who have taken the relentless and unjust punches for years, , get out and do something to change things, don’t just whine about stuff and blame others who have stood in fire and called out the nonsense long before it was totally out of control! Markowski is a RINO and has been all along, Penatola is a activist Who was probly groomed by Obama, Don Young was the last True hope but the clock ran out on him.but If your a true Alaskan and don’t want Anchorage being a Political Suburb of Seattle and San Fran sicko, you all better wake the hell up and engage!

    • To: DM
      Your comment is the most enlightened I’ve seen on this thread in over a year. You seem to be too intelligent to contribute to this website. The only ones who get published here are usually the Palin bashers and those looking for a scapegoat to blame for their own shortcomings.

  8. Don Young stayed way too long and helped facilitate Alaskans love of federal government money. That money always comes with strings attached that we now are currently trying so hard to extricate ourselves from.

    I am thinking of running next cycle, if no other reason then to have in the discourse “Be your own leader” and to try and highlight how off course we are. All levels of government need to shrink considerably and personal agency and civic engagement need to increase.

  9. Don Young was a great man and a good friend. He put
    Alaska first. We will never have a leader that could pilot a river boat, ran a trap line, and made his home in a small village with his wife Lu on the Yukon River. Thanks Don.

  10. I do not miss Young’s arrogance, silliness, buffoonery and foul mouth. Like so many Alaskan politicians, an embarrassment.

  11. I don’t miss dons representation, he stayed too long on the job. Too bad we have Mary now in his spot. She’s taken us out of the fry pan and into the fire. How long can this nation survive the fools who “serve us”?

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