Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Opinion

C.W. Bill Young's family story paints picture of politicians' reality

RECOMMENDED READING


What might we call this political soap opera? The Young and the Graceless?

In the end it seems the final sendoff of the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young to that earmark in the sky was somewhat less than a memorial service to a 40-plus year public career than it was a pulling back of the curtain on a dysfunctional political family more closely resembling the Medicis of the sub-tropics.

Had it not been for a brief, off-the-cuff remark by the congressman's son, Robert Young, toward the end of the October memorial service, chances are Bill Young would still be thought of as a longtime Washington power broker who funneled hundreds of millions of dollars back to his district. Indeed, Young's name is second only to "Stop" for its ubiquitousness throughout Tampa Bay.

Standing at a podium, the son noted that in addition to the children Bill Young shared with his wife, Beverly, there was another brood of offspring, referring to Pam, Terry and Kimber. "Actually, I don't know what their last names are," Robert Young confessed, which caused a sudden dropping of jaws and a rise in curiosity.

How could Robert not know the names of his half-siblings? The answer, as the Tampa Bay Times' Andrew Meacham eventually reported, was that he barely knew them.

There's a lesson here about public life. No matter how much you may think you know or admire about a public figure, even one who dominated Pinellas County politics for nearly half a century — you probably actually know very little, and there's probably even less to admire. It is always a bad idea to love a pol too much. Disappointment always lurks.

Few younger residents of Pinellas County were remotely aware Young divorced his first wife, Marian, after 36 years of marriage in 1985. Eight days later the congressman, then 54, married Beverly, then 29, who worked in his office and who had gotten a head start on the union by giving birth to Charles William Young II — in 1984.

How could this have happened? There's a story. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once observed that until he joined the Nixon administration as a national security adviser he was simply a rumpled, schlubby Harvard professor. But once he arrived at the center of power in Washington he suddenly found himself dating Jill St. John. The waters of the Potomac can be a compelling aphrodisiac.

Still, that awkwardness of the calendar didn't prevent Young from accepting the 1986 Family and Freedom Award from a group called the Christian Voice for the congressman's voting record on "key moral issues." We pause here for a proper eye roll.

Bill Young was hardly the first elected official to succumb to the allures of libido, hardly the first to get a divorce, hardly the first to begin a second family. But Young did more than split from his first wife. He split from his first family.

According to Meacham's reporting, following his parting with Marian, Young's contacts with Pam, Terry and Kimber dwindled. Three children, who had once been featured prominently in Young's early campaigns as a dedicated family man, all but disappeared from view. Even Pam's and Kimber's last names became a distant memory to Young's second family.

Members from Family 1 insist they tried to maintain a relationship with their father. Beverly Young says her late husband was rebuffed by his children, even describing Terry Young as a "horrible son," resentful toward her because she is younger than they are. Maybe we should change the title to The Young and the Acidness.

People will decide for themselves whom to believe. But given Bill Young's penchant for air-brushing his children out of his political life, combined with his effort to conceal his battle with cancer from the public during his last two re-election campaigns, it is fair to assume this was a politician whose life was far from an open book.

One more thing. To answer Robert Young's riddle. Their names are Terry Young, Pamela Ernest and Kimber Butts. It's time you knew.

Comments

Another voice: Time for Republicans to denounce this tax nonsense

Mick Mulvaney, the phony deficit hawk President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the nationís budget, all but admitted on Sunday that the GOP tax plan currently before the Senate is built on fiction. Senators from whom the public should expect more ó s...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nationís highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17
Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

From birth to death, opioid addiction is ravaging the lives of thousands of Floridians. Drugmakers, doctors, state lawmakers and insurance companies all have a role to play in slowing the epidemic. Lately some more responsible answers, including mill...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "Iím pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractorsí labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractorsí labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise ó for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system ó one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Krisemanís new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Krisemanís new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Krisemanís own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17