It's official: Don Young is longest serving Republican in Congress - Must Read Alaska
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Thursday, September 23, 2021
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It’s official: Don Young is longest serving Republican in Congress

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Congressman Don Young is officially the longest-serving Republican House or Senate member in history.

Before Tuesday, that title went to former Speaker Joe Cannon, who retired in 1923 after serving 16,800 days. Young is serving his 24th term, since 1973.

As the oldest current member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he became the Dean of the House on Dec. 5, 2017, and he works with 75 House members who were not even born when Young first came to Washington. Young is the last remaining member of Congress who has been in office since the Nixon Administration.

A veteran of the U.S. Army, he moved to Alaska in 1959, around the time of statehood. He settled in Fort Yukon, where he worked in construction, fishing, trapping, and mining. He captained a tugboat on the Yukon River, hauling barges delivering products along the river. He still holds his mariner’s license. In the winter, he taught fifth grade at the local Bureau of Indian Affairs school.

In 1972, he lost his race for the House of Representatives to the incumbent, Rep. Nick Begich. Begich disappeared in a plane crash on Oct. 16, 1972, but won the election anyway. He was declared dead on Dec. 29, 1972, and Young ran in a special election on March 6, 1972, and won against Democrat Emil Notti. He’s won every election since.

Young is the longest serving Republican in both the House and the Senate because the late Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina changed parties in the 1960s from Democrat to Republican.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • If he serves another 13 years, he will catch Democrat John Dingell for longest service in Congress. Might happen, he’ll be 98 by then.

  • Saw Don two weeks ago and he looked fit and full of energy. Much to the environmentalist’s displeasure, Don will be around for a couple more election cycles.

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