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C.W. Bill Young, Dean of Florida Congressmen, Dies at 82

U.S. Congress

C.W. Bill Young, whose political career took him from the minority party in the Florida Senate to control of the U.S. House budget committee,  died at 6:50 p.m. today. He was 82.

Family attorney David Jolly said the family have notified the offices of the speaker of the U.S. House and the governor of Florida of Young’s death and the vacancy in the 13th Congressional District.

In a statement transmitted by Jolly, the Young family said, “U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young (FL-13) passed away this evening at The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the company of his family. The cause of death was complications related to a chronic injury. Information on services will be forthcoming.”

At the time of his death, Young was the longest-serving member of Congress from Florida, having first won election in 1970.  Young recently announced he would not seek reelection when his term expired in 2014.

Young recently told The Tampa Bay Times he was retiring because of a bad back and to spend more time with family. But he also said Congress had changed since he was first elected.

“It seems there’s too much politics,” he said. “It’s a different Congress.”

Young was a symbol of the old way of doing things, where Southern lawmakers could proudly point to local projects funded with federal money as a campaign asset. Those earmarks are now a liability for many Republicans.

But many places around Tampa are a monument to Young’s career. Buildings at the University of South Florida’s Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses bear his name. So does a reservoir and a National Institutes of Health research facility.

When the Sunshine Skyway bridge collapsed in 1980, Young helped shepherd money for a replacement bridge through Congress.

But the Tampa Bay region may have benefited most from Young slot on the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee.

Young secured the money to build a new U.S. Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force base and helped rejuvenate a former defense contracting plant in Pinellas County.

He was also concerned about the how veterans and their families were affected by military service. Young served nine years in the Army National Guard, and six more as a reservist.

In December, Ray Smith, the father of a man killed during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, begged Young to find out how the attack happened and why the consulate was not prepared.

Young said it was his duty to try and help.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to take to investigate,” Young told WUSF’s Bobbie O’Brien, “but the people of America basically are demanding answers, my constituents are demanding of me that I get the answers.”

Then Young went a step further. From Off The Base:

The congressman asked Bay Pines VA Hospital, where Ray Smith receives treatment for his wounds suffered during Vietnam, to help honor Smith’s son. On Monday, a fourth floor counseling room where families meet with chaplains and physicians to discuss difficult medical decisions was dedicated in Sean Patrick Smith’s honor. A parchment copy of the congressional proclamation recognizing Smith’s sacrifice and his photo are neatly framed and hangs in the room. When it was unveiled, Ray Smith went over, hugged the picture frame, then took a step back and saluted his son.

Young and his wife Beverly have three children. He had three children with his first wife.

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