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J. Young, 85; Texas Legislator in Sex Scandal

January 30, 2002|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

John A. Young, a Texas Democrat whose 22 years in the House of Representatives was marred by a sex scandal in the 1970s, has died. He was 85.

Young died Jan. 22 of congestive heart failure at a hospital in Arlington, Va.

A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, Young was elected to the House in 1956, serving as the representative of the 14th Congressional District until 1979.

As a congressman, Young served on numerous committees, including the House Rules Committee, where he often cast key votes for legislation during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

Young also worked hard for his home district. In the 1960s, he pushed for an international airport in Corpus Christi and was a strong supporter of its port. He also fought to get funding approved in 1978 to continue operations at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi.

In 1976, Young's former secretary, Colleen Gardner, accused him of demanding sexual favors in exchange for higher pay. A Justice Department investigation, however, concluded there was no evidence to support criminal charges.

Young denied the charges to reporters, while acknowledging that he had held clandestine meetings in area motels. He said he was meeting with military officials who passed confidential information to him.

In 1979, a federal judge dismissed Young's $6-million libel suit against the New York Times and Sol Rosen, the lawyer who encouraged Gardner to go public with her charges.

Gardner's allegations against Young came after two high-profile Washington sex scandals that ultimately ended the careers of two other leading House Democrats, Reps. Wilbur Mills of Arkansas and Wayne Hays of Ohio. The Young scandal reportedly took a heavy toll on his wife, Jane, who stood beside her husband of 26 years. "I don't think the people of his district are going to buy these stories.... I think they believe in John," she told a Corpus Christi newspaper in 1976. Neighbors told the Washington Post that although Jane Young never discussed the scandal with them, she had changed after the allegations were made public. She committed suicide in 1977.

After Young was defeated in the 1978 Democratic primary, he practiced law in Washington and in Corpus Christi and served as a lobbyist.

He graduated from St. Edwards University in Austin and from the University of Texas Law School.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander, he served in Texas as an assistant district attorney for Nueces County, as county attorney and county judge.

Young's son Robert died in 1984.

He is survived by four children, Nancy R. Young and Mary Patricia Young, both of McLean, Va.; John Andrew Young Jr. of Fairfax, Va., and Gaffney Phillips of Livingston, Texas; and a grandson.

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