U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) died Friday night.
Rep. Young was the longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Fox News reported that his death occurred while at the Los Angeles International Airport on his way home to Alaska.
Young was 88-years old and his cause of death has not yet been determined. Young had served in Congress since 1973 after winning a special election.
“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,” a statement from Young’s office said.
“His beloved wife Ann was by his side,” it continued.
Young’s office confirmed that in the coming days they “will be sharing more details about plans for a celebration of his life and legacy.”
Jack Ferguson, a current lobbyist who previously served as Young’s chief of staff said that despite his age, Young was excited to be running for re-election.
He said, “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.”
Young served as dean of the House. This means that he was the most senior member of either political party. He was also the last active member of the House who was elected in the 1970s.
Before entering Congress, Young worked in construction, fishing and trapping, and gold mining. He also captained a tugboat and delivered products along the Yukon River.
Shortly after being sworn into Congress, Young found himself holding a leading role in the historic battle for approval of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline. His success in this endeavor is often heralded as one of the most important achievements of his career.
Young even said, “Next to statehood itself, the most historical legislation passed that affected every Alaskan then, now, and in the future, was the passage of the pipeline legislation.
Despite his well-documented good nature, the Congressman was also known for his larger-than-life antics including famously wielding a walrus’s pubic bone on the House floor during a debate over the rights of Alaskan Natives to sell the sex organs of endangered animals, defending the controversial industry of fur trapping while attaching a steel trap to his own leg, and holding a knife to the neck of former U.S. Rep and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio).