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Rep. Don Young dies at 88

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Rep. Don Young, dean of the U.S. House of Representatives and one of Congress’s more colorful characters, died Friday on his way back home to Alaska, his office announced. He was 88.

The Republican congressman was a vehement advocate for his home state in Washington, and also a boisterous voice on the floor of the House, often occupying a seat near one of the exits and booming out commentary on the delinquency of other members during votes.

“A fierce defender of Alaska since elected to Congress in 1973, nearly everything that has advanced for Alaska is a result of Don Young’s tenacious work,” the congressman’s office said in announcing his death. “From the Trans-Alaska pipeline, to the Ketchikan Shipyard, to the Magnuson Stevens Act, which transformed the American fishing industry, to the numerous land exchanges he fought for, Don Young’s legacy cannot be overstated.”

He was the ninth-longest serving member of Congress in history, and the longest-serving Republican.

As the current senior member of the House, he had the honorary title of “Dean,” which in practice meant he swore in the person who won election as speaker at the start of each new Congress.

The Anchorage Daily News reported that Mr. Young was on a flight from Los Angeles to Seattle when he lost consciousness.

His wife was with him at the time, his office said.

Fellow lawmakers marveled at Mr. Young, who seemed a throwback to rougher days on Capitol Hill.

“Some of my favorite stories as Republican whip in the House are about Don Young,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican.

Former Speaker John Boehner wrote in a book that Mr. Young once pulled a knife on him during a debate over pork-barrel spending. Mr. Young was the most vociferous GOP advocate for earmarks.

Mr. Young has confirmed the story, though he joked on Twitter that every time Mr. Boehner told the story “the knife gets a bit bigger and a little closer.”

Mr. Young added that Mr. Boehner “ended up being the best man at my wedding.”

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