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Don Young honored as longest-serving member of U.S. House of Representatives

The walls of Rep. Don Young’s office are covered with dozens of animal trophy mounts, Alaska artwork, photographs and other items. Photographed on June 25, 2015. (Marc Lester / ADN archive)

Alaska's Congressman Don Young was recognized as dean of the House — the title given to the longest continuously serving current member of the U.S. House of Representatives — on Tuesday in Washington D.C.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., both gave short, playful speeches honoring Young.

"Don Young is one of only 28 Americans in our history of this nation to serve more than 40 years in this house," Ryan said. "As you can see, he has a very bright future ahead of him."

Pelosi said that Young followed in the footsteps of great American leaders.

"It is now Don's solemn duty to help foster a climate of civility in the Congress and to hold our colleagues accountable – why are you laughing Don? – for the behavior of raising a high standard for this body," Pelosi said, as the camera cut to a shot of Young laughing.

Young spoke briefly afterward.

"I will not change being the dean … I will sometimes get out of line," said Young, who is known for his gruff demeanor. "But in doing so, remember it comes from my heart. And my heart is in this house."

Young became the longest-serving member of the House in early December after Rep. John Conyers of Michigan resigned amid harassment claims.

The dean of the House is a symbolic role in which the main duty is swearing in the speaker of the House.

"Remember, that's swearing in the speaker, not swearing at the speaker," Ryan joked.

Young is the first Republican to take on the role in 84 years, according to his office. The last Republican dean was Rep. Gilbert Haugen, of Iowa, in 1933.

Young was first sworn in March 6, 1973. He is now serving his 23rd term as Alaska's sole representative in the House. Ryan said that Tuesday was Young's 16,374th day on the job.

Young has served under nine different speakers of the House and nine presidents. He has already filed to run for re-election this year.

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