Shocking news for Alaska: Congressman Don Young has died. He was Alaska’s congressman from March, 1973 until his passing on March 18, 2022. Young was 88 years old and campaigning for his reelection, when he had heart attack on a commercial jet en route from Los Angeles to Seattle; medics in Seattle could not revive him.
Young took office after the death of Congressman Nick Begich in 1972. A special election was held and he won the seat, which he’s held since, and was Dean of the House, the senior member of the House of Representatives. He served longer than any other Republican in U.S. history.
His office released 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. 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.”
By statute 15.40.140, the governor must call a special election not less than 60 nor more than 90 days.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.
Young was born June 9, 1933, and represented Alaska for 25 terms as Alaska’s lone member of Congress. He had been in office since the Nixon Administration and became the 45th dean of the House on December 5, 2017, after John Conyers resigned.
Young was mayor of Fort Yukon from 1964 to 1967 and a member of the Alaska House of Representatives from 1967 to 1971 and the Alaska Senate from 1971 to 1973.
He was married in his younger years to Lou Young, who passed in 2009. He married Anne Garland Walton, a retired flight nurse from Fairbanks, in 2015.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy released a statement: “Congressman Don Young has been a great friend and colleague 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.”