Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has ordered the flags lowered to half-staff in honor of the late Congressman Don Young, who passed suddenly on March 18 while enroute to Ketchikan, where he was planning a campaign event Sunday. The flags will remain lowered until his interment.
Across the nation, tributes poured forth honoring Congressman Young, who was the longest serving Republican member of the House of Representatives in U.S. history, and who was the Dean of the House. Young was the only member who had been in office since the Nixon Administration. Here are some of the tributes from Friday afternoon:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Today, Congress and the Country join Alaska in mourning the loss of a dedicated patriot and public servant: Congressman Don Young.
“When he became Dean of the House in December 2017, Don said: ‘I love this body. I believe in this body. My heart is in the House.’ Indeed, his reverence and devotion to the House shone through in everything that he did. For five decades, he was an institution in the hallowed halls of Congress: a serious legislator always bringing people together to do the People’s work. The photographs of him with ten presidents of both parties who signed his bills into law that proudly cover the walls of his Rayburn office are a testament to his longevity and his legislative mastery.
“When I became Speaker of the House in January 2019 and January 2021, it was a privilege to be sworn in by Don – who, as Dean, never failed to honor the special traditions of our treasured institution. His historic service brought luster to the Congress, and his many friends in the House will strive to live up to his towering legacy. May it be a comfort to Don’s wife Anne and his children Dawn and Joni that so many mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.”
Kevin McCarthy, Republican House Leader: “Don Young was a giant, with a heart as big as the Capitol and a spirit as strong as the Alaskan wild. He was the longest serving Republican in the history of Congress – working with ten Presidents and nine Speakers. He was a chairman of several committees, the dean of the House, and a mentor to all of us. No one worked harder for his or her state and people than Don.
“Alaska is the great American frontier, and managing its blessed resources, persistently advocating on behalf of all Alaskans and Alaska Natives over 4,000 miles away in our Nation’s capital, and building the infrastructure to connect people and communities through the most rugged state in our union have been at the center of Don’s extraordinary career in Congress.
“But if you asked him, his most important and consequential job was being a husband and father. His love for Lu and Anne was eternal. They loved him dearly too. We all loved Don dearly. His absence will leave Congress less colorful and certainly less punctual. But his decades of service have filled every room and touched every member. Although he is no longer sitting in the Chamber amongst us, he will always be with us. Anne and his children have my deepest sympathies and love.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski: “Alaskans are devastated by this shocking and sad news and I am saddened beyond belief about the loss of my friend. We have lost a giant who we loved dearly and who held Alaska in his heart—always. Don was coming home to the place that he loved, and to the people that loved him best. We love you, Don.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan: “Like all Alaskans, Julie and I are saddened, shocked, and devastated by the sudden passing of our Congressman Don Young. His spirit—authentic, tenacious, indomitable, a man of the people—epitomized our great state to such a degree that there was a sense he’d always be with us, that he’d live forever.
“He was a dear friend and mentor, and I have learned so much from this great Alaskan.
“The Alaska that we know and love today is a reality because of the tireless work of Don Young.
“Julie’s and my deepest condolences go out to his wife, Anne, his daughters, Dawn “Sister” and Joni, and his many grandchildren. Rest In Peace, Don Young.”
Gov. Mike Dunleavy: “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.”
Former Gov. Sean Parnell, upon learning of the passing of Young today, walked into the Alaska Airlines Center at UAA and made the announcement to high school basketball teams from rural Alaska playing in semifinals. “It seemed to shock quite a few, but I spoke briefly in honor of Don and asked the crowd of about 4,100 to join me by standing in a moment of prayer or silence so as to give thanks for his service and to remember Anne and his family,” Parnell said.
Cathy Tilton, Alaska House Minority Leader: “We are genuinely saddened by the recent loss of Congressman Don Young. We offer our deepest condolences to his family, especially his wife Anne who was with him, and his staff. The Congressman was a towering figure in Alaska for more than half a century. He provided great courage and leadership during many of the most important policy debates that molded Alaska’s future. Our caucus was looking forward to meeting with him next Monday during his annual visit to the State Capitol. I know many of us in the House Republican Caucus feel a special connection to the Congressman because of his previous service in the Alaska State House. Alaska and our nation have lost a truly great man. Farewell Don Young, Congressman for all Alaska.”
Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson: “Deb and I were shocked when we heard the news of the passing of Don. Our hearts and prayers go out to Anne. As the longest serving U.S. Congressman and Dean of the House, he was one of Alaska’s biggest champions. His tireless work for Alaska over the last 49 years has made a tremendous impact across generations. As a personal friend, Don and I shared similar passions to include the love of the outdoors, hunting, and finding ways to help out our fellow Alaskans. Our prayers go out to his family and especially his wife Anne.”
Bernadette Wilson Americans for Prosperity Alaska: “For 49 years, Congressman Don Young served the 49th state. Even on issues where we may have disagreed, there is no doubt he continually fought for Alaska with everything that he had, to do what he believed was best for our state. As we look around Alaska, his legacy is everywhere. To Anne and his family – we appreciate your sacrifices as you shared in this journey with him. And now, we hold you in our thoughts and prayers. And to you Congressman – give Heaven hell. You will be missed.”
Crawford Patkotak, chair ASRC: “Alaska and the country lost a great leader today. Congressman Young was not only a friend to the people of the North Slope, but he was also a fierce advocate for Alaska Native rights. We were blessed to have him represent the people of our great state. We pray for and extend our sincerest condolences to the family of Congressman Young.”
Chris Constant, Democrat candidate for Congress: “I am deeply saddened at the news of Congressman Don Young’s passing. I recently called Congressman Young to let him know that I was beginning my campaign, and we had a very positive and memorable discussion about Alaska’s future. Today, we have lost a true Alaskan leader who will forever remain in our hearts. Please join me in keeping Congressman Young’s family in our thoughts and prayers.”
Nick Begich, Republican candidate for Congress: “I join all Alaskans in mourning the loss of our Congressman Don Young. My heart, prayers and condolences go out to Anne, to the rest of his family and friends. While we may have had our differences over the past several months, I’ve always believed that Alaska is a better place because of his years of service. His legacy cannot be overstated. Alaska will miss him.”
Kelly Tshibaka, candidate for U.S. Senate: “Don Young will always be an absolute giant in Alaska and there will never be another like him. He came here in 1959, just after statehood, meaning that Congressman Young’s history here is nearly as long as the history of Alaska itself. I credit him with getting me fully engrossed in politics and public service, as his race in 1994 was the first campaign of significance I ever volunteered for. In fact, I proudly wore my Don Young t-shirt to school, which caused some strong reactions from other students, making me even more sure that I was indeed a strong Republican. At his victory party that year, I got to hold the ‘Congratulations, Mr. Chairman’ sign we had made, because he was set to be the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee in the next Congress. The last time I saw Congressman Young, at an event last year, I told him that story and he was pleased to know that he’d had an influence on a high school kid interested in public service. Don Young was as Alaskan as anyone I’ve ever known, and he will be sorely missed by us all.”
Sen. Josh Revak, co-chair Alaskans for Don Young: “Today the people of Alaska lost a legend, and I lost a mentor and a dear friend. No one embodied the Alaskan spirit more than Don Young and no one fought harder for Alaskans. Don Young had a life of service and a heart for service. He served our country in the United States Army, he continued his life of service as our Congressman in the 49th state for the last 49 years. During his time as our congressman, he fought tirelessly for our state, passing more legislation than anyone else in all of Congress. His commitment to our state and country is unmatched by anyone. I am honored to have worked for him and with him to improve the lives of all Alaskans. My deepest prayers and sympathies go to his wife Anne and the rest of his family. I will forever be honored to call him a friend and forever grateful for all that he taught me.”
Alaska Senate Majority: “Members of the Alaska Senate Majority mourn the passing of U.S Representative Don Young. Don was known for his absolute dedication to Alaska, his down-to-earth political acumen, and his ability to work across party lines for what was best for Alaskans.”
Senate President Peter Micciche: “We are still reeling from today’s news about the loss of our close friend, Congressman Don Young. After dedicating well over 50 years of his larger-than-life existence serving the people of Alaska, it almost seemed that Congressman Young would live forever. Instead, he will live in our hearts for as long, in spite of his mortality.
“I personally sat down this evening after learning of Don’s passing in front of an old photo of the two of us, poured a toast in his honor, and reflected about an Alaskan’s Alaskan before calling my family to break the news of the loss of ‘Uncle Don.’
“Don Young was the real thing. If a polished politician is what you expected, Representative Young may not have been your man. However, the Congressman was heavily supported for twenty-five terms due to his ability to connect with who we are as Alaskans, and for his energetic fight, right until the end for Alaska and the country he loved. He said out loud what was in his heart; a rare commodity in U.S. politics these days, and I believe the primary reason for his charm and success. I am honored to have been represented by Representative Don Young for most of my life, and further honored to have been able to call him my friend.”
“The Senate Majority will hold Don’s wife, Anne, his family, colleagues, and his many thousands of friends in our hearts during this difficult time. As we work to conclude this legislative session, we will remember the legacy of Representative Young’s service and his selfless dedication to Alaska.”
Rep. George Rauscher: “The State of Alaska has lost a mighty voice in the longest serving member of the 117th Congress. Congressman Don Young passed away today, the 18th of March, 2022. He was a good friend and will truly be missed.”
Alaska Democratic Party: “Throughout his historic career Congressman and Dean of the House Don Young became a symbol of Alaska’s fierce independent spirit, and in Congress he went his own way. We are grateful for the times he reached across the aisle and worked in a bipartisan manner to support candidates and legislation that were good for Alaska and the country. We thank him for his tireless decades of public service and commitment to Alaska. Our hearts and sincere condolences go out to his family and many friends.”
Former Democrat-endorsed congressional candidate Alyse Galvin: “This afternoon Alaska lost another legend. Over more than 4 decades, Don Young was Alaska’s sole representative in Congress. We can thank Don Young for many of the things we enjoy about Alaska today. While Don and I didn’t always agree on every issue, we always agreed on one thing, putting Alaska first. I am sending heartfelt condolences to his family and the many friends who loved him.”
Alaska Republican Party: “The Alaska Republican Party is sad to learn that the Republican Party’s longest-serving member of the House of Representatives passed away unexpectedly today. Having represented Alaska for 25 terms, Rep. Don Young was a titan of Congress and an Alaskan legend. Our beautiful state, that he loved and served dutifully, owes him so much. Congressman Young will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”
Alaska Federation of Natives: “The Alaska Federation of Natives joins the state and country in mourning the passing of Congressman Don Young. In the coming days, the Congressman’s accomplishments in the United States House of Representatives will be compiled for all to reflect on. The list will be long. The achievements he championed from concept to completion on behalf of Alaska Natives will not be forgotten.
“However, his friendship is what the Alaska Native community will miss most. Congressman Young’s word was his bond, and he was not afraid to speak his mind. No one ever had to second guess where they stood with him.
“’We did not always agree,’ said AFN President Julie Kitka, ‘however, he was always willing to listen. And if he could help, he would.’ Kitka remembers how the Congressman would often pick up the telephone and call a cabinet member or federal official to ‘take care of it’ right in the middle of their meetings. ‘That was how much he cared about the Alaska Native community,’ Kitka added.”
“AFN Co-Chair Joe Nelson recalls Congressman Young’s appreciation and deep understanding of Alaska’s unique forms of tribal self-governance and Native self-determination and how he made it his mission to make sure the rest of Washington, DC did as well. Nelson surmised, ‘we could not have asked for a better advocate.’”
“Co-Chair Ana Hoffman said she still has the moose brisket that the Congressman asked for last fall sitting in her freezer. She will remember him as a ‘staunch defender of Alaska Natives and rural Alaska, as well as our ways of life.’”
“AFN extends our thoughts and prayers to Congressman Young’s wife, children, friends, colleagues, and staff — thousands of whom go into this weekend with heavy hearts.”
Franklin Graham: “Our nation lost a great American today. I was saddened to learn that Rep. Don Young of Alaska has passed away at the age of 88. He was the longest-serving member of Congress, elected in 1973, and was also the longest-serving Republican lawmaker in congressional history. He gave his life working to make the lives of not only Alaskans better, but to make the lives of all Americans better. Congressman Young came to faith in Jesus Christ years ago under the preaching of Dr. Jerry Prevo, who was pastor of Anchorage Baptist Temple. He was baptized by Dr. Prevo and became a member of the church. I have been with Congressman Young on many occasions. I am sure that his wife Anne and the family would be grateful for your prayers. He will be greatly missed, but will never be replaced.”
Congressman Scott Franklin, Florida: “Representative Don Young was a leader, a patriot, and a stalwart champion of Alaska. For nearly 50 years, Rep. Young walked the halls of Congress and served during some of the most notable chapters of history. As dean of the House of Representatives, he set an example of lifelong public service for younger members. He will be deeply missed by his colleagues and I ask that you join me in keeping his family and friends in your prayers.”
Rep. Elise Stefanik, NY: “Almost every Member of Congress has a one-of-a-kind story of their first interaction with Don Young. He was a tireless and exceptional advocate for the people of Alaska. He spent every single day doing what he loved — bringing his gargantuan voice and outsized leadership on behalf of Alaskans.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa: “Sad to hear of the passing of Don Young longtime representative from Alaska he was a friend & dedicated public servant God bless his family during this difficult time.”
Rep. Steve Scalise, Louisiana: “Sad to hear the news of Don Young’s passing. Don was not just the Dean of the House, he was also a dear friend and a true legend of Congress. Don was a tireless fighter for Alaska who loved the outdoors, including his trips down to Louisiana to fish. Don will be greatly missed.”
May he rest in peace.
To the rest of us still living ask this:
Was it really worth it to constantly sell out to special interests to constantly increase spending and debt?
Was it really worth it to relentlessly attack and eliminate freedoms that were earned by our ancestors?
You cant take it to the grave! Live morally, Love your neighbor, think critically.
Don Young’s legacy is atrocious.
Thank you for your fine tribute to Don. He really was Mr. Alaska in so many ways.
Thought it was George Bush that swore in Pelosi as Speaker of the House
Senator Grassley, as a member of the 94th Congress, began serving with Congressman Young in 1975. Congressman Grassley’s office was just two doors down from Congressman Young’s office in the Longworth House Office Building. With all due respect to the other people quoted, none knew Congressman Young during the early part of his service, when he was a junior and often insulted member of a small Republican minority. Times changed and Don Young’s role changed. That said, and I spoke with him about a month ago, the man did not change. He was a happy and optimistic warrior who believed very deeply in this country.
Nobody recognized that don was a picture boy for why term limits are needed. Why can’t these politicians get in serve, then move on?? Almost always these very long ruling class are serving themselves or special interests. During dons many terms the nation is truly almost destroyed in every important issue. He truly failed to leave the country better than he found it.
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