C.W. ‘Bill’ Young, Most-Senior House Republican, Dies
C.W. “Bill” Young, the longest-serving Republican in Congress, who rose to the top seat on the House Appropriations Committee and exerted his influence on defense and health spending, has died. He was 82.
Young died yesterday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, his chief of staff, Harry Glenn, said in an e-mail. The cause of death was “complications related to a chronic injury,” according to a family statement provided by Glenn.
The congressman entered Walter Reed on Oct. 4 for surgery to treat a back injury. Five days later, he announced that he would retire in January 2015 rather than seek a 23rd term.
Following 10 years in Florida’s state Senate, Young was sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 3, 1971. Only two other current members of Congress, both Democrats from Michigan, have served longer: John Conyers, in office since 1965, and John Dingell, who took office in 1955 and holds the record for longest congressional tenure in history. (Democrat Charles Rangel of New York, another current House member, was sworn in the same day as Young.)
Young was chairman of the Appropriations Committee from 1999 to 2005, serving the maximum six years under Republican-imposed term limits. He liked to point out that his tenure as chairman coincided with the last time the federal government ran a surplus.
Until his death, Young was chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on defense spending. He was a defender of the congressional practice of earmarking money to specific district projects, even when fellow Republicans challenged the practice.
He was an advocate for increased government spending on medical care, immunization and research on Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. In 1986, he helped create the U.S. Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program, which now carries his name.
In September 2012, following years of support for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, he called for an immediate pullout of American troops. He said the death of an Army Ranger from his district helped change his mind.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last night praised Young’s “commitment to a strong national defense” and his dedication to members of the military.
“He will be remembered as a passionate advocate for the welfare of America’s service members and military veterans,” Hagel said in an e-mailed statement.
Young’s Florida district, which includes Clearwater and most of St. Petersburg, backed President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in 2008 and 2012 while re-electing him with 60 and 57 percent of the vote, respectively.
The Tampa Bay Times, in an editorial marking his announcement that he would retire in 2015, said he “brought home projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars that created jobs and helped define the region as a hub for military contractors, marine science and public education.”
The newspaper also credited him with resisting partisan anger in the nation’s capital, calling him “the rare Republican who still acknowledges that the responsible answer to reducing the federal deficit is a combination of spending cuts and new revenue.”
House Speaker John Boehner expressed sorrow at Young’s death, citing the Florida lawmaker’s service.
“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, an Ohio Republican, said in an e-mailed statement. “Here was a man who had seen it all.”
Charles William Young was born on Dec. 16, 1930, in Harmarville, Pennsylvania, on the Allegheny River about 15 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. His family moved to Florida when he was 15, and he dropped out of high school to support his ill mother by hauling concrete blocks and mixing mortar, according to “The Almanac of American Politics.”
Young sold insurance and served in the Army National Guard before winning election to the state Senate in 1960. He was minority leader from 1966 to 1970.
His back problems stemmed from a plane crash in 1970, when he was a state senator. The Tampa Bay Times reported that Young was returning to Tallahassee, the Florida capital, from a fundraising dinner in St. Petersburg when the small plane he was in went down three miles short of the airport.
The House Ethics Committee investigated Young and six other lawmakers for allegations they steered federal contracts to companies represented by the now-defunct lobbying firm known as PMA Group. Young and the others were cleared in February 2010, when the committee found that nobody had “violated any law, regulation, rule or other applicable standard of conduct.”
Young’s first marriage produced three children and ended in divorce. He had two children with his second wife, Beverly, who also had a son from a previous marriage.
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