Don Young, never one to stand on ceremony, lies in state in US Capitol

Alaska Congressman Don Young lay in state at the U.S. Capitol Tuesday. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media.)

Alaska Congressman Don Young entered the U.S. Capitol for the last time on Tuesday. Eight uniformed service members carried his flag-draped coffin up the stone stairs of the U.S. House. 

As he lay in state in Statuary Hall, steps from the House Chamber where he represented the 49th State for 49 years, congressional leaders and Alaska’s senators eulogized Young for his public service, and for his colorful character.

“Don was strong in his faith and strong in his language,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said. “And we’ve got to be honest: Don was as rough as Alaska’s wild.”

Rep. Don Young’s coffin was brought up the stone stairs of the U.S. House Tuesday. (Screenshot from pool video)

McCarthy also recounted the time he made the mistake of taking the seat in the House chamber Young assigned to himself. 

“The lesson I learned that day? It’s true: He does have a knife,” McCarthy said.

After the speeches, after the Army Chorus sang “Amazing Grace,” family, colleagues and invited guests filed past the coffin. Some touched it lightly. Some saluted. Some made the sign of the cross.

Aside from a few anecdotes, the ceremony was somber and formal — nothing like the man himself. 

In the House Chamber, Young was known for bellowing calls to get on with the vote. He was often impatient with colleagues who showed up late.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski agreed Young would not have enjoyed the ceremonial fuss and bother.

“But he would have been proud that it started right on time,” she said. “We were relatively punctual. Although I’m sure he would have said that the senators went on too long.”

Young was the longest serving Republican Congress member in history. He died March 18 after losing consciousness on an Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle. He was 88 years old.

A memorial service will be held for Young at a church near his home in Great Falls, Virginia on Wednesday and at Anchorage Baptist Temple on Saturday.

RELATED: Don Young: The man, the myth, the malapropisms

Alaska’s colors fly on the Capitol’s East Plaza as Rep. Don Young’s casket is brought up the U.S. House stairway. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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