Young had served in Congress since 1973, making him the longest-serving member of the House.
“Born on June 9, 1933, in Meridian, California, Young grew up on a family farm. He earned a bachelor’s degree in teaching at Chico State College, now known as California State University, Chico, in 1958. He also served in the U.S. Army, according to his official biography,” the Associated Press reported.
“Young came to Alaska in 1959, the same year Alaska became a state, and credited Jack London’s ‘Call of the Wild,’ which his father used to read to him, for drawing him north.”
Young was elected to Congress after serving as mayor of Fort Yukon and spending time in the Alaska House and Senate. Young was elected to Congress in 1973 via special election after his opponent in the general had passed away prior to the election:
In 1972, Young was the Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Begich. Three weeks before the election, Begich’s plane disappeared on a flight from Anchorage to Juneau. Alaskans reelected Begich anyway.
Begich was declared dead in December 1972 and Young won a close special election in March 1973. He held the seat until 2022, and was running for reelection in November.
Young was known for blunt speech, as well as his staunch defense and pride in the Alaskan people and state.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) expressed his condolences via Twitter, saying, “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[.]”
Libby Bakalar, an Alaskan attorney and blogger, tweeted, “Don Young died. He was a legend, like it or not (I did not). I always voted against him & thought a lot of the stuff he said & did was awful, but the man was the longest serving rep in Congress & I think usually had (what he at least felt) were AK’s best interests at heart. RIP.”
“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,” Jack Ferguson, Young’s former chief of staff, said in a statement, according to Anchorage Daily News.