ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young, 82, the senior Republican in the U.S. House and a defense hawk who was influential on military spending during his four decades in Washington, died Friday.
His chief of staff, Harry Glenn, said in an e-mail that Rep. Young died at 6:50 p.m. 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 e-mail included a statement from Rep. Young's family, saying relatives were with him when he died from complications related to a chronic injury.
On Oct. 9, from his hospital bed, Rep. Young announced that he would not seek a 23d term in 2014.
On Saturday, he was being remembered as a defense hawk with a passion for looking after the needs of military members and of his constituents.
"It's only been a week since we began trying to imagine the House without Bill Young - an impossible task in its own right - and now he is gone," House Speaker John A. Boehner, said in a statement. "In our sorrow, we recall how not a day went by without a colleague seeking Bill's counsel."
Rep. Young brought hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks to the Tampa Bay area while in Congress and built up a defense contracting industry in the region, creating jobs and stirring the economy.
"For over 13 years, I considered Bill to be a dear friend and a colleague that could always be counted on to provide sage advice based on decades of experience," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.), said in a statement.
First elected to the House in 1970, Rep. 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. He 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.
Rep. Young, who had been involved in Florida politics since 1957, was considered the elder statesman of the state's Republican Party and in the U.S. House. In recent years, he became increasingly frail and relied on a wheelchair.
The congressman was a longtime member of the House Appropriations Committee, where he focused on military spending. He and his wife, Beverly, frequently visited service members at hospitals in the Washington area.
President Obama issued a statement saying Rep. Young "will be remembered for his advocacy and support for the armed forces, service members, and their families as well as his statesmanship and long history of working across the aisle to keep our country moving forward."
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a written statement, "As Florida's longest serving member of Congress, Bill will be remembered as a true statesman and champion for the Tampa Bay area."
Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry said Rep. Young "always stood up for the Sunshine State and fought for the best interests of its citizens."
His counterpart, state Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant, said in a statement that for more than 40 years, Rep. Young's "dedication to Florida and consistent civility has set the standard for all of Florida public servants."
Charles William Young was born in Harmarville, Pa., and later moved to Indian Shores, Fla.
He served in the Army National Guard from 1948 to 1957, then was an aide to U.S. Rep. William Cramer from 1957 to 1960. From 1961 to 1971, he served in the Florida Senate.
Rep. Young and his wife had three children.