"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated," famously said Mark Twain.
In that spirit, Rep. Bill Young of Florida -- the longest-serving Republican in the House -- has notified U.S. Capitol Police about an incident early this month in his Tampa-St. Petersburg-area district in which local police received an anonymous report that he had died.
“Still alive and kicking,” the 81-year-old lawmaker had to eventually insist from Washington by telephone, to personally squelch the rumor for a reporter at The Tampa Tribune, which had been tipped off by police to pursue the potential bad news.
“That was strange,” Young’s chief of staff, Harry Glenn, said on Friday.
Glenn said the congressman’s office notified Capitol Police -- not out of any real worry, but more as a matter of standard reporting policy. It is not known if the initial call to police was merely a prank, said Glenn, or what other motivation might have been in play.
Young has been battling some health issues, and has been a source of retirement speculation over several recent election cycles. First elected to Congress in 1970, he has not yet announced whether he will seek yet another two-year House term in 2012.
“He’s raising money,” is all that Glenn would offer.
From his senior position on the House Appropriations Committee, a panel he chaired until 2005, Young has been able to steer hundreds of millions of dollars to his district, region, and state. He is currently the chairman of its Defense Subcommittee.