Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy has introduced a bill to rename the Fairbanks International Airport after Don Young, the longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives, who passed away on January 24, 2024, at the age of 88.
A tribute to a political legend
Governor Dunleavy said that renaming the airport after Young would be a fitting tribute to his legacy and service to Alaska and the nation. He called Young a “political legend” who fought for Alaska’s interests and values for nearly five decades in Congress.
“Don Young was a true Alaskan who loved this state and its people. He was a tireless advocate for our rights, resources, and opportunities. He was a friend, a mentor, and a leader who left an indelible mark on our history. Renaming the Fairbanks airport after him is a small way to honor his memory and express our gratitude for his remarkable contributions,” Dunleavy said in a statement.
A long and illustrious career
Young was first elected to the House in 1973 in a special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Nick Begich. He was re-elected 26 times, making him the longest-serving Republican and the third longest-serving member in the history of the House. He was also the dean of the House, a title given to the longest-serving member of the majority party.
Young served on various committees and subcommittees, including the Committee on Natural Resources, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Committee on Indian Affairs. He was known for his outspoken and sometimes controversial views on issues such as environmental protection, federal land management, Native American rights, and gun control. He was also a staunch supporter of Alaska’s oil and gas industry, and championed the development of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System and the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling.
Young was widely respected and admired by his colleagues across the political spectrum. He was praised for his bipartisanship, pragmatism, and humor. He was also known for his colorful personality and his trademark walrus mustache.
A mixed reaction from the public
The governor’s bill to rename the airport after Young has received a mixed reaction from the public. Some Alaskans have welcomed the proposal, saying that Young deserves recognition for his decades of service and achievements. They have also pointed out that Young was a longtime resident of Fairbanks and had a close connection with the airport.
Others have opposed the idea, arguing that Young’s record was not exemplary and that he did not represent the values and interests of all Alaskans. They have also questioned the appropriateness and cost of changing the name of the airport, which has been in operation since 1951 and is the second busiest in the state.
The bill will need to be approved by the Alaska Legislature before it can become law. The governor has urged the lawmakers to act swiftly and pass the bill during the current session, which ends on April 16, 2024.