Nine days after he announced that he wouldn’t seek another term in 2014, the longest-serving Republican member serving in the 113th Congress has died.
Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), also the longest-serving member of Congress from his home state, was elected to the House in 1970 and won re-election 20 times. The closest he ever came to defeat was in 2012, when he got 57.6 percent of the vote over a Democratic challenger.
Young passed away this evening at The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the company of his family, his office said. The cause of death was complications related to a chronic injury. Information on services will be forthcoming.
He served in the Army National Guard from 1948 to 1957 and became an insurance salesman before entering politics.
Young had gone to Walter Reed for treatment for a back injury suffered in a 1970 plane crash, which in recent years had left him using a cane or wheelchair. It was from here on Oct. 9 that he announced his retirement.
“I don’t know that I would pick out one thing. It’s a lot of things. My family, my job, my rehabilitation from my back,” Young told the Tampa Bay Tribune of the decision to hang up his hat.
“It’s only been a week since we began trying to imagine the House without Bill Young – an impossible task in its own right – and now he is gone,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement.
“In our sorrow, we recall how not a day went by without a colleague seeking Bill’s counsel as he sat on his perch in the corner of the House floor,” Boehner said. ”There was a good reason for this. Here was a man who had seen it all and accomplished much. Looking out for our men and women in uniform was his life’s work, and no one was better at it. No one was kinder too.”
“Floridians have lost one of the greatest public servants we’ve ever had in our state’s history,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “For over a half century, Bill fought tirelessly for the Tampa Bay region and to strengthen Florida’s role as a critical part of our national defense. Largely because of Bill Young, many of our nation’s brave men and women in uniform have called Florida home at some point in their careers, with many of them spending their golden retirement years here. Throughout Bill’s career, our military and veterans have had no greater champion than him. My thoughts and prayers are with Bill’s wife, Beverly, and their entire family.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he was “deeply saddened” by Young’s passing.
“I have known and respected Bill Young for more than four decades. He dedicated his life to serving our country — beginning with nearly a decade in the Army National Guard and culminating in more than 40 years in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Hagel said. “He will be remembered as a passionate advocate for the welfare of America’s service members and military veterans. Though his loss will be felt by many, his legacy and commitment to a strong national defense will always inspire us.”
“Bill Young was a statesman in the truest sense of the word,” said Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.). “Bill and his wife spent countless hours visiting wounded warriors at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington. Congressman Young will be remembered as an example of statesmanship—especially for his dedicated service to our men and women in uniform. His wife and family are in my prayers this evening.”
President Obama released a short statement later in the evening, saying Young “will be remembered for his advocacy and support for the armed forces, service members, and their families as well as his statesmanship and long history of working across the aisle to keep our country moving forward.”