Alaska’s Legendary Congressman Don Young Dies at 88

Colorful Alaska Congressman Don Young died Friday, aged 88.


Don Young, the Dean of the US House of Representatives, died Friday aged 88. Young was in his 25th term in Congress and was running for his 26th in November.

  • Young served as Alaska’s Congressman for 49 years and was the longest-serving Republican member of the House in American history. He was the last member to serve in the 1970s.
  • Alaska’s “winningest politician ever,” Young was famous for his brash style, warm personality, and for crossing party-lines if it benefitted Alaska, most recently on the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law.
  • The late Congressman was also known for his at-times outrageous behavior including sitting through a congressional hearing with his fingers in a bear trap to demonstrate that trapping was not inhumane and waving an 18-inch walrus penis bone during a Congressional hearing.
  • He brought home the bacon for Alaska, including the trans-Alaska pipeline that helped Alaska become a global energy powerhouse. He directed millions towards the Frontier State from his Congressional office, which was decorated with the trophy heads of animals he’d killed.
  • Young passed away on a flight home to Alaska, with his wife Anne by his side.
  • Young first won his seat in a 1973 special election after incumbent Democratic Rep. Nick Begich’s disappearance and presumed death. The small plane carrying Begich and then-House Majority Leader Hale Boggs (D-LA) is thought to have crashed in October 1972, but their bodies and the plane were never found.

reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • Politico called Young an “Alaskan titan” and recalled the incident where he held John Boehner at knifepoint in the House cloakroom after Boehner criticized Young’s penchant for earmarks.
  • The New York Times recalled his long career in Washington as “Alaska’s third Senator” defending Alaska’s natural resource industries and his time spent under federal investigation, although he was never charged.
  • The Washington Post remembered Young’s colorful career, including his advocacy for the controversial “Bridge to Nowhere” project and his habit for incendiary remarks, best summarized with Paul Ryan’s joking reminder that his duty as Dean of the House was “swearing in the speaker, not swearing at the speaker.”



  • The Wall Street Journal paid tribute to the Congressman, who worked as a teacher and commercial fisherman and served in the Army before Congress and was Congress’s only licensed mariner.
  • National Review included statements from Sen. Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on their colleague’s passing and recalled his legacy transforming the American fishing industry and advocacy for the Trans-Alaskan pipeline.
  • Fox News covered President Joe Biden’s tribute. Biden said there was “no doubt that few legislators have left a greater mark on their state” and “Don’s legacy lives on in the infrastructure projects he delighted in steering across Alaska” and “in the enhanced protections for Native tribes he championed.”

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© Dominic Moore, 2022