The late Congressman Bill Young was a Pinellas County institution.
His political influence in Florida dates back to 1962.
To see why Young goes down as one of the most influential politicians of the 2010s, look no further than the St. Petersburg College campus in Seminole or the Veteran’s Affairs campus at Bay Pines.
It’s hard to think of a political figure whose name is on more buildings than Young’s.
Young died in 2013 while still serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he first took office in 1971.
At the time of his death, he was the longest-serving Republican member of Congress in history.
Before that, Young served in the Florida Senate from 1961 until 1970.
Young is perhaps best known for his keen ability to draw down federal dollars into the local community. Over the decades, Young successfully earmarked funding for U.S. Highway 19, jobs, children’s health care, clean water and defense, and military projects and benefits.
In the mid-80s, Young helped launch a national bone marrow registry to help military members and veterans access lifesaving treatment for cancer. The program, known commonly as Salute to Life, is now named after him. It has recruited more than 1 million potential donors and facilitated 8,000 cellular donations.
“Every veteran owes Bill Young a ton of gratitude because he made sure America never turned its back on the patriots who risked everything to ensure America didn’t lose everything,” said Republican political strategist Adam Goodman.
“As much as Bill Young was a throwback to the time when all pulled together for the common good, he was also a visionary who never let politics trump principle, or putting off till tomorrow what had to be done today.”
Young’s early work in politics earned him some blowback in later years. Young served on the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee from 1962 until 1964, a committee that investigated homosexuals, as they were then described, as well as potential communists.
Asked in the ’90s about his involvement, however, Young downplayed his role in a report containing explicit images of same-sex sexual activity, arguing that while he didn’t agree with same-sex relationships, it wasn’t his place to intervene.
Still, Young was an icon of conservative politics in Florida, and especially Pinellas County, for decades.
“There aren’t enough words to describe the impact that Congressman Bill Young has had on the State of Florida and the entire country. Affectionately known as ‘The Boss,’ he was the embodiment of a gentleman and the kindest man I have ever met,” said lobbyist Alan Suskey. “Whether it was saving thousands of lives through championing medical research funding, equipping our service members with the tools they needed to shoot, move, and communicate, or simply taking a young soldier under his wing and showing him that kindness and love can cure the unseen wounds of war, he was always there to help when asked and even when we didn’t ask.”