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Don Young, dean of the House, dies at 88

Congressman Don Young, the dean of the House, has died, his office confirmed Friday. He has served in the House for nearly half a century. 

Young died Friday while traveling home to Alaska, according to a statement shared on his Facebook page. 

"It's with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we announce Congressman Don Young (R-AK), 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 statement said. "His beloved wife Anne was by his side."

At 88, Young was the longest-serving member of the House, having entered Congress in 1973. He served as Alaska's sole member of the House of Representatives for most of the time Alaska has been a state. 

Election 2020 Alaska House
U.S. Rep. Don Young, right, gestures during a House debate Thursday, October 22, 2020. Jeff Chen / AP

Young, a Republican, announced last year that he would run for another term this year. 

He survived a bout with COVID-19 that hospitalized him in 2020. 

Among other things, Young was famous for his "Alaskan of the week" presentation, which took place at the end of every week and featured an Alaskan who was doing something noteworthy or good for the community. 

Young was known for his sense of humor and bluntness, and was appreciated by members on both sides of the aisle. 

Young called Fort Yukon, Alaska, a town of about 700 people, home. 

In announcing his death, his office also cited one of his more famous quotes. 

"Every day, I try to do something for somebody and some group," Young once said, according to his office. "And every day I try to learn something new. We all go into the ground the same way. The only thing we leave behind are our accomplishments."

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy called Young a "great friend" and said "Alaska is a better place because of Don Young."

"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," Dunleavy tweeted. "Hours after being sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives, he was leading the historic battle for approval of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline. Shortly after, he was impressively honored in 1973 as the 'Freshman Congressman of the Year.'"

On Saturday afternoon, President Biden said Young was "tough" "loyal" and "a consensus builder."

"There is no doubt that few legislators have left a greater mark on their state," the president's statement said. "Don's legacy lives on in the infrastructure projects he delighted in steering across Alaska. In the opportunities he advanced for his constituents. In the enhanced protections for Native tribes he championed. His legacy will continue in the America he loved."

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