WASHINGTON — Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the longest-serving Republican in the House of Representatives, died on March 18 at the age of 88.

His office announced Young’s death in a statement. A cause of death was not provided.

Rep. Don Young served in Congress for 49 years. (Associated Press)

A native of Meridian, Calif., Young moved to Alaska in 1959, the year it became a state.

During the 1980s, Young — Alaska’s sole representative in the House since he was first elected in 1973 — played a role in the passage of redress legislation that was ultimately signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.

Although known mainly as a bill for Japanese Americans incarcerated by the government during World War II, the Civil Liberties Act also had provisions for Aleuts and Pribiloff Islanders in Alaska who were relocated and imprisoned against their will.

When Japanese forces attacked the western islands of Kiska and Attu in 1942, U.S. naval personnel rounded up Aleuts and Pribiloff Islanders and interned them in camps almost 2,000 miles away near Juneau. Although this was supposedly done for their safety, the internees were subjected to substandard living conditions and more than 100 died from lack of warmth, food and medical care.

Imprisoned long after the Japanese had been driven out of Alaska, the Native Alaskans also found that their villages had been looted during their absence.

The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians held hearings across the country, including Alaska, in 1981. The nine members included Judge William Marutani, a Japanese American former incarceree, and Father Ishmael Gromoff, a Russian Orthodox priest who was among the Aleuts who were interned. The CWRIC’s findings were documented in a report, “Personal Justice Denied.”

The involvement of Alaska’s congressional delegation, which consisted of Young and Republican Sens. Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski, helped to build bipartisan support for the redress bill. Among those who attended the signing ceremony were Young, Reps. Patricia Saiki (R-Hawaii), Norman Mineta (D-San Jose) and Robert Matsui (D-Sacramento), and Sen. Spark Matsunaga (D-Hawaii).

Young was the 43rd American citizen to have been given the privilege to lie in state at the Capitol.

During a memorial service on April 2 in Anchorage, Young was eulogized by Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (both R-Alaska), Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy and others. 

“Don Young was a man of the people, and he built relationships that endured because they were honest, they were true, and he was loyal,” said Murkowski, daughter of Frank Murkowski.

At a memorial service in the Washington area on March 30, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remembered Young as “dogged, determined champion for Alaska in the House.”

Young had been seeking re-election at the time of his death. With the seat vacant, more than 50 people have announced their candidacy, including Sarah Palin, former governor and former GOP vice presidential nominee, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Other states that have only one representative in the House are Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.

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