ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Rep. Bill Young of Florida, the senior Republican in the U.S. House and a defense hawk who was influential on military spending during his 43 years in Washington, died Friday. He was 82.
His chief of staff, Harry Glenn, said in an email that Young died at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he had been for nearly two weeks with back problems that stemmed from a 1970 small plane crash. The email included a statement from Young’s family saying relatives were with Young when he died from complications related to a chronic injury.
On Oct. 9, from his hospital bed, Young announced that his current 22nd term would be his last and he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2014.
First elected to the House in 1970, Young was one of the strongest supporters in Congress of defense. So he made headlines in 2012 when he said the United States should withdraw its forces from Afghanistan. Young told the Associated Press at the time that “we’re killing kids who don’t need to die,” and reflected the growing weariness with a conflict that had dragged on for more than a decade.
In recent years, Young became increasingly frail and relied on a wheelchair. He was quoted by the Tampa Tribune recently as saying that his decision to retire was based on both his health and a desire to spend more time with his family.