Rep. Don Young of Alaska, oldest member of Congress, dies on trip back home

In his final tweet published hours before his death, Young expressed pleasure at getting improved mental health services for the military, including the U.S. Coast Guard.

Updated: March 18, 2022 - 11:01pm

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Rep. Don Young, a gritty Alaskan who served in Congress since Richard Nixon's presidency and relentlessly championed funding for his state, died Friday during a flight home. He was 88.

Young's office announced his passing, saying he was accompanied by his wife Anne when he lost consciousness on a flight from Los Angeles to Seattle.

"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," the office said.

Young, a Republican, was the oldest member of Congress, serving 25 terms since winning office in a special election in 1973. He was seeking a 26th term and was heading home for re-election fund-raisers next week.

Young was a poster child for the phrase "bring home the bacon," relentlessly fighting for federal funding for his state. He also was a tireless defender of the U.S. military.

In his final tweet published hours before his death, Young expressed pleasure at getting improved mental health services for the military, including the U.S. Coast Guard.

"I worked hard to pass language in the @USCG reauthorization bill to protect service members seeking mental health care from discharge & I applaud USCG for announcing a mental health policy update," he wrote. "Nobody should fear discharge for seeking the care needed to fulfill their duties."

Jack Ferguson, a lobbyist and onetime chief of staff to Young, said his boss was engaged in politics to the end and looking forward to reelection.

"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," Ferguson told the Anchorage Daily News.

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