Bill Young Dead at 82
Around the State
U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., passed away on Friday after falling gravely ill. He was 82.
His chief of staff, Harry Glenn, said he died at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he had been for nearly two weeks with back problems. On Thursday, Young’s family announced that his condition had taken a turn for the worse.
Young had an illustrious career in politics. He took the scene in 1960 at the age of 29, when he was elected as the only Republican in the Florida Senate. Young moved up the ranks quickly and became minority leader within five years. Ten years later, he ran for Congress, representing Florida’s 10th District and continually won re-election in the four decades that followed.
Young was primarily known as a powerful defense appropriator, chairing both the House Committee on Appropriations and its Subcommittee on Defense. He was elected to the House Appropriations Committee’s panel on defense in 1995, serving there until his death.
An analysis of bills Young introduced, by the government transparency organization Govtrack.us, rated him as an ideological moderate.
Young’s life and political experience were praised by members of both parties Friday evening.
"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,” said House Speaker John Boehner. “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. 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.”
Gov. Rick Scott said, “Ann and I join all Floridians as we mourn the passing of Representative Bill Young. As Florida’s longest serving member of Congress, Bill will be remembered as a true statesman and champion for the Tampa Bay area. He served with eight U.S. presidents throughout his career, always putting the families of Florida first, and working across the aisle to find solutions.
“His work to support military families, our veterans, and his own service with the Army National Guard and as a reservist, will leave a lasting legacy. Representative Young will be missed by his constituents and our entire nation. Ann and I offer our support and prayers to his wife Beverly and his sons and grandchildren during this difficult time.”
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said, “I am saddened by the news of Bill’s passing. He was a tireless advocate for the people of Florida, our military and our veterans. ... During his more than 50 years in public service that brought him to the Florida Senate and the U.S. Congress, Congressman Young always put the interests of his constituents first. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Beverly and their family.”
Lenny Curry, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said this about Young: "I, and the Republican Party of Florida, mourn the death of Congressman Bill Young. Over five decades of public service, Bill Young has been a constant champion for his constituents and for the state of Florida. He has always stood up for the Sunshine State and fought for the best interests of its citizens. His dedication, his leadership, and his friendship will be sorely missed. His wife Beverly and their three children, Billy, Patrick and Robbie, are in our thoughts and prayers today."
"My prayers are with the family of Congressman Bill Young,” said former Florida governor Charlie Crist. “He served our county, state and country with distinction."
Young’s seat was already expected to be up for grabs in 2014, but now it’s highly likely that Democrats will pour additional resources into the race. A special election will be held to finish his term.
In 2012, he faced off against Democrat Jessica Ehrlich for the seat and defeated her 58-42 percent. Ehrlich has already declared her candidacy for the seat in 2014, but Young's wife has said she’d make a run for the seat if Ehrlich's name is on the ballot.
Alex Sink, a Democrat who ran in 2010 for governor against Rick Scott, is also on the short list to campaign for Young’s seat in the House.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam, who served in the House with Young, had perhaps the definitive comments on a congressman who very much was his hero.
“Florida lost a statesman tonight, in every sense of the word," said Putnam. "Bill Young rose from humble beginnings, invented the modern Republican Party in Florida, was friend and counselor to U.S. and foreign leaders, and helped shape today's military.
“Bill was a tireless supporter of our troops and made sure the support continued when they became veterans. He and Beverly never missed an opportunity to give comfort and support to the wounded and their families. He saved MacDill for Tampa Bay and saved the Everglades for all of us. His leadership aided our state in the aftermath of multiple hurricanes and rebuilt the beaches for the world to enjoy.
“I never once heard a cross word uttered by him or about him. Once, when a major vote was pending, and the vote was tight, Bill asked the White House legislative affairs director if he could speak personally with President Bush. The staffer walked out with me and shared that, as it was past 2 a.m., the president was asleep. ‘What are you going to do?’ I asked. ‘Wake him up for Mr. Young,’ was the reply.
“Many will say or write over the next few days, ‘They don't make them like Bill Young anymore.’ The truth is, they never did.”
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.