The death of Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican who served in Congress since 1973, makes Christopher Smith (R-Manchester) the second most senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Young died on Friday on a flight between Los Angeles and Seattle, according to the Anchorage Daily News. He was 88.
The new Dean of the House is Hal Rogers, an 84-year-old Republican from Kentucky.
Rogers and Smith were both elected 1980, but because seniority for Members of Congress sworn in on the same day is done in alphabetical order, Rogers is considered more senior than Smith.
But Smith is 15 years younger than Rogers and will likely wind up as Dean of the House as long as he holds on to his solidly Republican seat in New Jersey’s 4th district.
“Don Young—the dean of the House—was an accomplished lawmaker, tenacious advocate for Alaska and friend. He had a wonderful sense of humor, booming voice, a great big heart, and was fiercely devoted to ensuring that America was energy independent,” said Smith. “We join his wife Anne and family in celebrating a life well-lived and mourn his passing.”
Young won a 1973 special election after Rep. Nick Begich was declared dead. Begich had been campaigning for re-election to a second term when a small plane carrying him and House Majority Leader Hale Boggs on a campaign swing in Alaska went missing. The plane or the remains of the two congressmen were never found. Begich was posthumously re-elected in 1972, defeating Young by twelve percentage points.
Boggs had ties to New Jersey. His daughter was Barbara Boggs Sigmund, a former mayor of Princeton, Mercer County Freeholder, and a candidate for the 1989 Democratic gubernatorial nomination. His grandson Paul Sigmund, had also been a Mercer County Freeholder.
Young was the last sitting congressman to have served in the House with New Jerseyans John Hunt (R-Pitman), Charles Sandman (R-Erma), Frank Thompson (D-Trenton), Peter Frelinghuysen (R-Harding), Andrew Maguire (D-Ridgewood), William Widnall (R-Saddle River), Joseph Maraziti (R-Boonton), Helen Meyner (D-Phillipsburg), Henry Helstoski (D-East Rutherford), Dominick Daniels (D-Jersey City), Joseph LeFante (D-Bayonne) and Edward Patten (D-Perth Amboy).
Young’s death moves Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-Long Branch) to #8 on the House seniority list. He won a 1988 special election to replace the late Rep. James Howard (D-Spring Lake Heights).