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Thursday, February 9, 2023

Congressman and Dean of the House Don Young Passes Away

Alaska Congressman Don Young has passed away after losing consciousness on a flight. He was 88 years old.

First sworn in as a freshman to the 93rd Congress after winning a special election on March 6, 1973, Congressman Young was the longest serving member of the current Congress. He also served on the House Natural Resources and House Transportation and Infrastructure committees at the time of his death.

“I knew Don Young for a long time. He always stayed true to who he was and the people of Alaska he represented. Tough. Loyal. A consensus builder,” said President Joe Biden. “He was larger than life, but always focused on Alaskans’ everyday lives. As Dean of the House, he was the longest-serving House Republican in history—but cherished photos of his legislation being signed into law by ten presidents, Republicans and Democrats.

“There is no doubt that few legislators have left a greater mark on their state. Don’s legacy lives on in the infrastructure projects he delighted in steering across Alaska. In the opportunities he advanced for his constituents. In the enhanced protections for Native tribes he championed. His legacy will continue in the America he loved.

“Jill and I send our prayers to his wife Anne, to his daughters and the entire Young family, and to the people of Alaska.”

Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) also shared his memories of Congressman Young.

“Don was a force of nature—an historic and unique figure in a body of standouts. Early on we fought bitterly over environmental issues and wolf slaughter in Alaska. Although we stood opposed on many policy matters, we were friends. His service as Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was impactful, capped by the passage of the SAFETEA-LU, surface transportation reauthorization named for his beloved late wife. It was a strong bipartisan bill, with good policy and needed investment in infrastructure. 

“In later years as his party moved to the extreme right fringes, Don stayed true to his values. 

“My thoughts are with Don’s wife and family, and all Alaskans who called him their representative for 25 terms.”

Just days before his death, Congressman Young issued a statement in support of Ukraine. 

“While crippling sanctions on Russia are helpful, we must also provide the air support, weapons, and equipment necessary to bolster Ukraine’s ability to defend itself from Putin’s war machine. Ukrainians are fighting for their lives and their freedom – we can immediately answer President Zelensky’s calls for assistance by sending drones and other aircraft, including providing MiGs from American bases,” Young said on March 16.

He echoed President Zelensky’s calls to close U.S. waters to Russian vessels, underscoring the need for legislation like Young’s own BOATS Act. 

“I continue pushing hard for my legislation to ban Russian vessels from U.S. waters and seize the yachts of billionaire Russian oligarchs; I am proud to have secured the BOATS Act’s provision banning Russian vessels in U.S. waters as part of the recent Coast Guard reauthorization legislation that was approved by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Following President Zelensky’s address today, I call on my colleagues to sign onto my standalone legislation and help get it across the finish line.”

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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