Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican, dead at 88

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U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, the longest-serving member of the House, died Friday night at Los Angeles International Airport while he was on his way home. He was 88.

The cause of death was not yet determined.

Young, a California native, had served in Congress since winning a special election in 1973.

From left, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, conduct a news conference in the Capitol’s Senate studio on Jan. 26, 2015.
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“It’s with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we announce Congressman Don Young, 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,” a statement from Young’s office said. “His beloved wife Ann was by his side.”

Young was currently serving out his 25th term and was running for a 26th. 

Along with his wife Anne, Young leaves behind two children.

Young’s office said they “will be sharing more details about plans for a celebration of his life and legacy” in the coming days.

Rep. Don Young, center, and his colleagues are seen during a portrait unveiling for the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, in the Old Senate Chamber, Oct. 23, 2019.
(Getty Images)

“He was vibrant, he had a lot of energy, he’s very clear of mind, spoke clearly about what he wanted to accomplish, set goals that he wanted to make happen, and was happy to be running,” said Jack Ferguson, a lobbyist who served as Young’s chief of staff, according to Anchorage Daily News.

Dean of the House

Young won a special election to succeed the late Rep. Nick Begich, D-Alaska, the father of former Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska. The elder Begich died in a plane crash that also killed House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, D-La., the father of late journalist Cokie Roberts.

He was the dean of the House, the most senior member of either party, and he was the last active House member who was elected in the 1970s.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is seen in the Capitol Visitor Center, Sept. 30, 2021.
(Getty Images)

Clash with Boehner

Young also served as a tugboat captain and trapper. He famously wielded the pubic bone of a walrus on the House floor during debate once. Young also pulled a knife and held it against the throat of former U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, before Boehner became speaker.

In 2014, a report from the House Ethics Committee found Young to have violated House rules by improperly using campaign funds to pay for 15 personal hunting trips that took place between 2001 and 2013. The congressman was required to pay back more than $59,000 in campaign funds that covered the cost of gifts he received and the majority, if not all, of the expenses associated with the hunting trips.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

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