WASHINGTON — The body of U.S. Representative Don Young of Alaska, who was the longest-serving Republican member of Congress of any era when he died this month, lay in state in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall on Tuesday, where his fellow lawmakers paid tribute.
“His reverence and devotion to the House shone through in everything that he did,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said in a statement after his death was announced. “For five decades, he was an institution in the hallowed halls of Congress.”
Young, the only member in the House representing the state of Alaska, was first elected in 1973 and died on March 18 at age 88 on a flight home to Alaska.
Young, who worked as a tugboat captain in the state in his youth, was described as ornery, temperamental, salty tongued and acerbic. During one campaign debate he conceded that he could be both arrogant and a bully in his defense of Alaska’s interests.
Shortly arriving in the House in 1973, he helped win federal approval of the trans-Alaska pipeline, which has carried an average of 1.8 million barrels of oil daily. He also was a longtime supporter of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling.
Nearly two decades ago, Young helped win approval of a massive transportation bill that funded two Alaska bridges later nicknamed “bridges to nowhere.”
A formal ceremony was held on Tuesday morning, which was attended by Young’s family and guests and included remarks from Alaska’s U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan.
While Young’s near half century in office made him the longest-serving member in the current House, he was not the all-time record holder. That record is held by the late Democratic Representative John Dingell Jr., who served 59 years before retiring in 2015. Dingell died in 2019.
Additional reporting by Richard Cowan.