To write the obituary for a man who in his life had been shot, was hit by a truck, survived an airplane crash, and endured open-heart surgery is humbling; but to do so for a man who remained steadfast and modest while bettering the lives of millions is heartbreaking.
Congressman and Pinellas County icon Charles William “Bill” Young passed away Friday afternoon surrounded by his family. He was 82.
Young was a statesman and principled leader whose legacy is that of respectful bipartisanship and unshakable commitment to bettering the lives of those he represented. Young served with eight US presidents and worked across the aisle to shepherd the passage of defense, medical research, and infrastructure projects. His fingerprints are hard to miss in Tampa Bay, along the Gulf coastline, or in the region’s thriving local defense industry.
Young was born in Harmarville, Pennsylvania, a poor coal town, on December 16, 1930. He relocated to Florida at the age of 16 attended St. Petersburg High School before dropping out to support his ill mother by hauling concrete blocks and mixing mortar. At 18 he joined the Army National Guard where he served from 1948 to 1957.
In 1960, Young was elected to the Florida Senate as a Republican, where he served from 1961 to 1970 and was minority leader from 1966 to 1970. Young was elected to Congress in 1970 and was reelected 20 times since. Only twice has Young received less than 60 percent of the vote — a reflection not of the electoral composition of his district but a testament to the trust he earned and fostered.
Upon Young’s announced retirement earlier this month, colleagues from both sides of the aisle praised his tenure and his extraordinary record, his humbleness and his life of public service.