Remembering a Legend: Congressman Bill Young

by admin on October 21, 2013

Congressman Young SpearheadAmerica lost a legend last week.

Congressman Bill Young, a towering personality trapped in an increasingly frail body, has died.  He was a living legacy, the longest-serving Republican in Congress, and one of the few remaining links to the go-go days of the Reagan era build-up–and one of the last of the “old school” pols who smothered his district in the largess befitting a long-serving defense appropriator.  But politics aside, he was a great old man, and really endearing in a lot of ways.

I was lucky enough to have had the great honor of sitting at Congressman Bill Young’s knee several times over the past few years.  From his perch on Appropriations,  he single-handedly kept Tampa on the military map.  Though frail, his power was palpable.  After mulling over the low public visibility of the then brand-new Independence-Variant Littoral Combat Ship, LCS-2 ended up visiting Congressman Young’s district–in what was an amazingly successful port call (and even though the Terror Alert status ramped up during the visit, the Navy was far more fearful of Congressman’s Young’s response to an attenuated visit than from a terrorist strike–the port call went ahead un-interrupted).  That visit went so well (I think the tour tickets were gone in 30 minutes), Congressman Young had the brand-new JHSV-1 drop in too (see the photo above).

He just loved his military gadgets.  His simple glee at seeing military equipment at work was unfeigned–and, despite all the pomp, he had a great sense of humor.  On a tour with him, his back was hurting and he had been put in a golf cart.  And, as befitting his senior status, he had an enormous group of strap-hangers in tow.  So he leaned over to the driver and whispered with a grin, something like, “Punch it! Let’s see if this crowd can keep up!” It was classic and, well, endearing. 

He was assisted in his work by his wife and a great staff.  His wife is a force of nature, and she pulled no punches in the pursuit of getting better treatment, better support and better equipment to “her troops”.  And Congressman Young’s staff…Congressman Young was blessed by having some incredible staff.  Chief of Staff Harry Glenn, Young’s consigliere, should be the next Congressman for the 13th District of Florida, because he had that place wired. No detail was too small, and nothing escaped Harry’s watch.  Impressive.

In closing, my favorite times with him was when he was a little tired, and he would get compatriots to tell stories.  The Congressman would say something like “it’s nothing like the old days”, and the stories would start to get told.  The Congressman’s head would lean on his cane, and his eyes would twinkle at the stories.  He lived an amazing life, and stodgy ‘ole Congress is that much duller with his passing.

So….Tampa/St. Pete lost a lion last week.  And that’s not all–I’m willing to bet that the district, stripped of a big supporter, will likely be a big loser in the coming round of defense cuts.

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