ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Senior U.S. House Republican Bill Young was being remembered as a defense hawk, with a passion for looking after the needs of men and women in uniform and those of his constituents back in Florida. Young died Friday at age 82, a week after announcing from his hospital bed that he wouldn’t seek a 23rd term.
“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, 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. 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.”
Florida was always top priority. Young brought hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks back to the Tampa Bay area in his 43 years in Congress, and built up a defense contracting industry in the region, creating jobs and stirring the economy.
“His loss is a great one for his constituents,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said in a statement. “For over 13 years, I considered Bill to be a dear friend and a colleague that could always be counted on to provide sage advice based on decades of experience.”
First elected to the House in 1970, Young was one of the strongest supporters in Congress of defense. So he made headlines in 2012 when he said the United States should withdraw its forces from Afghanistan. Young told The Associated Press at the time that “we’re killing kids who don’t need to die,” and reflected the growing weariness with a conflict that had dragged on for more than a decade.