Longest-serving House member, Rep. Don Young of Alaska, has died at age 88

Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the longest-serving member of Congress and holder of the honorary “Dean of the House” title, died on Friday, according to CNN.

The Republican congressman from Alaska was 88-years-old and was serving his 25th term in the legislative body at the nation’s Capitol, having first been elected to the House in a special election in 1973. He will be replaced as Dean of the House by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), who has served in Congress since 1981.

“Revered champion for Alaska”

The Associated Press reported that Rep. Young’s office said in a statement, “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. His beloved wife Anne was by his side.”

According to the AP, Young was born and raised in northern California but, after attending college and a brief stint in the U.S. Army, he moved to the newly christened state of Alaska in 1959 in search of adventure and fortune.

What he ultimately found was a career in politics, first at the local level as mayor of Fort Yukon in 1964, followed by several terms in the Alaska state House and Senate, before finally being elected in 1973 as the sole representative of Alaska in the U.S. House, where he had served ever since.

CNN noted that the statement from Young’s office denoted the congressman as a “fierce defender of Alaska” and highlighted several of Young’s achievements over the years — the bulk of which was funding for infrastructure projects or rollbacks of regulations that all served to benefit and grow the state’s prosperity.

Messages of condolences and mourning

In a statement posted to Twitter, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) wrote, “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.”

The governor pointed to Young’s first and arguably biggest accomplishment — approval of the Trans-Alaska pipeline — in his first year in office and added, “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.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who was most recently sworn-in by Young in his capacity as Dean of the House, issued her statement “mourning the loss of a dedicated patriot and public servant: Congressman Don Young.”

“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,” she said. “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.”

Flags at half-staff in his honor

CNN further reported that, at the orders of both Speaker Pelosi and President Joe Biden, the flags atop the U.S. Capitol building and White House were flying at half-staff in Young’s honor — which was duly noted with gratitude by the late congressman’s office on Saturday.