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US Rep Don Young speaks during the 1998 MTD Executive Board meeting.

The Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO joins with Alaskans and the rest of the nation in mourning the death of US Rep Don Young (R-AK). He was 88 when he passed away March 18.

Young was a champion for the US-flag merchant marine. He was the only member of Congress who was a licensed merchant mariner, from his days as a tugboat captain prior to becoming an elected official.

“I had many meetings over the years with Don Young,” recalled MTD President Michael Sacco. “He truly was one of a kind. You always knew where you stood with him. And he always stood with us.”

The California native and Army veteran moved to Alaska in 1959 and settled in Fort Yukon, located about 7 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Besides being a tugboat captain, he worked in construction and served as a teacher before being elected the town’s mayor in 1964. Two years later, he was elected to the state legislature. He moved on to the state senate in 1970.

Young won a special election to fill Alaska’s lone seat in the US House of Representatives in March 1973 and held it until his death.

He unabashedly championed Alaska and Alaskans throughout his career. When he first entered Congress, he helped pass legislation for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which he still listed in his official biography as his greatest accomplishment. Early in the 21st century, he unsuccessfully pushed for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

During his tenure, Young chaired the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee. He consistently fought for Alaska’s Indigenous population. At the time of his passing, he was the longest serving member of the House.

He spoke at the 1998 and 2003 MTD Executive Board meetings and proudly displayed his ship’s wheel presented by the New York/New Jersey Maritime Port Council in his Capitol Hill office.