Former state Rep. Walt Young, a Democrat from Broward County who became an education expert in his two decades in the Florida House, has died. He was 94 and lived in Tallahassee.
Young championed education at a time when Democrats dominated the Florida Legislature. Known as "Mr. Education," he advocated improved middle school course offerings, expanded learning opportunities for children with disabilities and advocated for a stronger community college system. He served in a bygone era when legislators were not hamstrung by the eight-year limit on terms and sometimes spent years developing a specialty in a specific area of government.
A middle school and human resources center in Pembroke Pines, started with $9 million in state money, bears his name, even though Young himself discouraged the move, saying he did not believe buildings should be named after politicians until after they have died.
A native of Rochester, N.Y. and World War II Army Air Corps veteran, Young represented southwest Broward and the city of Pembroke Pines in its formative years when it was little more than a general aviation airstrip (North Perry Airport) surrounded by a cluster of modest subdivisions and the Hollywood Sportatorium -- long before it became the suburban behemoth that it is today. He was a steady if low-key member of what was then known in the Capitol as the "Broward Mafia" during the reign of Tom Gustafson of Fort Lauderdale, the last House speaker from Broward (1988-1990).