Don Young, 88, the long-serving Congressman representing Alaska’s lone seat in the House of Representatives, died on Friday after losing consciousness on an Alaska Airlines flight.
Don Young, Longest Serving Congressman From Alaska, Dies On Alaksa Airlines Flight
Young was traveling to from Los Angeles to Seattle when he lost consciousness onboard. His wife, a nurse, and others onboard were unable to revive him. He was pronounced dead upon landing in Seattle according to his long-time aide, Jack Ferguson. Alaska Airlines has not commented on the incident.
Young was the longest serving current member of Congress, having won 25 consecutive terms representing Alaska’s at-large district. He was traveling back to Alaska to participate in a number of fundraisers ahead of November’s midterm election, where he planned to seek re-election.
I remember first encountering Young in 2008. I was a full-on political junkie at the time and following the U.S. House and Senate races in Alaska. I remember being absolutely amazed at the debate between Mark Begich and Ted Stevens. Steven’s thesis, which he pounded home almost every question, was that he had seniority and he would bring home the pork to Alaska. Next up was a debate between between Young and Ethan Berkowitz and the cantankerous Young played up the pork (even proudly boasting about the “bridge to nowhere” and other earmarks) even more than Stevens.
Young once pulled a 10-inch knife on former Speaker of the House John Boehner after an augment over pork spending (Boehner later served as the best man at his wedding). He once told a Democratic challenger that the last person to touch him “ended up on the ground dead,”
The Curse Of The Flight In Alaska
Three weeks before the election of 1972, U.S. Representative Nick Begich’s plane disappeared while traveling from Anchorage to Juneau. Young was challenging Begich and still lost, with Alaskans voting overwhelming for the missing incumbent. But when it became clear that Begich was dead, Young was elected to Congress in a 1973 special election and held the seat since.
Young’s long-serving colleague in the Senate, Ted Stevens, died in a private plane crash in Alaska in 2010.
There’s something about planes and Alaska’s congressional delegation…
Young was quite the character and will be missed by Alaskans. Even President Joe Biden’s latest infrastructure bill included a huge amount of spending for sparsely-populated Alaska, with credit given to Young. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called him “an institution in the hallowed halls of Congress” and noted his “reverence and devotion to the House shone through in everything that he did.”