Bill Young's first family emerges to tell their story

Circa 1970s: At their North Carolina vacation home, C.W. Bill Young, holding grandson Bradley, and his first wife, Marian, pose with daughter Kimber, top right, and, bottom row from left, grandson Adam, daughter-in-law Carol, son Terry and daughter Pamela.
Circa 1970s: At their North Carolina vacation home, C.W. Bill Young, holding grandson Bradley, and his first wife, Marian, pose with daughter Kimber, top right, and, bottom row from left, grandson Adam, daughter-in-law Carol, son Terry and daughter Pamela.
Published Jan. 6, 2014

One evening around Christmas in 1986, Terry Young heard a noise outside his home in Redington Beach.

He opened the door to find his father, Rep. C.W. Bill Young. The congressman had come bearing gifts for Terry, his wife and their four young children.

Terry Young said he relished the opportunity to share such a moment with his father. The two had been out of touch for more than a year after Bill Young divorced his wife of 36 years — Terry's mother — and married his former secretary eight days later.

The son had called and left messages with his father, but they weren't returned. So he backed off.

That December night, Terry asked his father to come inside. The kids were giddy to see their grandfather, who had thrilled them on Christmases past by playing Santa Claus.

"I'm sorry, Terry, I just can't," Bill Young said.

The Republican congressman returned to his car, where his new wife, Beverly, was waiting.

According to Terry, Bill Young never tried to contact him or the grandchildren again.

After Bill Young died Oct. 18 at 82, he was given a funeral befitting a legend. Speakers — including House Speaker John Boehner and high-ranking military officials — praised his skills at crafting legislation and advocating for his constituents.

There was a second theme amid the accolades: Bill Young, family man.

A lengthy photo montage showed the congressman with the three sons (one adopted) and eight grandchildren who resulted from his marriage to Beverly.

But no one mentioned the three children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren from his marriage to the former Marian Ford. Nor were any of those family members included in the photo presentation.

Then an unscripted moment changed the tenor of the service. It happened 1 hour and 39 minutes in, after speeches from two of Young's sons and a Marine corporal close to the family.

One son stayed behind at the lectern.

"I would also like to say that he also has three other children who are adults," Robert Young announced. He gave their names — Pam, Terry, Kimber — and said that they are "not really speakers" and that he "didn't want to put them on the spot."

"Actually, I don't know what their last names are," he added, eliciting nervous titters from the section closest to the stage reserved for family and friends, including more than 30 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Afterward, questions swirled about the congressman's first family. Why were they absent from the service and why were their names not included in most obituaries?

Hardly anyone knew it, but two of Bill Young's children mentioned in Robert Young's statement — Pamela Ernest, 63, and Kimber Butts, 59 — were actually seated seven rows from the front during the funeral.

Terry Young watched it on television from home.

• • •

By the time he showed up at Terry Young's house with the Christmas presents, Bill Young was more than halfway through his second decade as a U.S. representative. He divided his time between Washington and Pinellas County.

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He had married Marian on Aug. 20, 1949, when he was an 18-year-old high school dropout and she was 17, entering her senior year at St. Petersburg High School.

By the 1980s Young was a beloved politician known for bringing millions of dollars into the Tampa Bay area and ardently supporting the military. He was well on his way to becoming one of the most powerful and respected politicians in Tampa Bay history.

But the landscape of his personal life had changed.

Early in 1982, when Young was 51, his office hired secretary Beverly Angello, 26. She would work in his office until late 1983.

At some point in between, Marian Young began hearing rumors from friends.

"People called me and said he was having an affair, but I didn't have any proof," said Marian Young, now 81.

The proof arrived on June 21, 1984, when the congressman and Angello had a son — Charles William Young II — while he was still married to and living with his wife.

Marian doesn't remember exactly when her husband admitted that the child was his. "I asked him if he was messing around and he said no," she said. "But then later on he said he was."

After the birth, Marian said, Bill Young asked her to take a ride with him to the hospital to see Beverly's baby. Marian believes he wanted an arrangement where he could stay married to her but still have a relationship with Angello.

"He didn't want the divorce, actually," she said. "But there was no way I was going to hang around."

Within a few months of Billy Young's birth, Marian filed for divorce. It took about a year. A critical part of the agreement, she said, centered on keeping the affair and the baby a secret.

"My attorney said, 'If all of this comes out, the congressman may be in jeopardy of losing his seat. If we can get alimony from him to keep you from letting everybody know about that, that would be beneficial,' " Marian Young said.

"I said, 'Done.' "

The divorce became final Nov. 15, 1985. Its records were sealed.

"I asked my attorney why did he (have the records sealed)," she said. "He said, 'It's because of the child.' "

Eight days later, Young married Beverly in the House prayer room of the U.S. Capitol.

• • •

Less than a year later, Young was awarded the Family and Freedom Award from the Christian Voice, the nation's largest conservative religious lobby.

He received the award because of how he voted on "key moral issues."

It's unclear if the Christian Voice knew of the recent upheaval in his private life. After all, newspapers had barely mentioned his divorce and remarriage, let alone the existence of an out-of-wedlock child.

At that time, politicians enjoyed a greater degree of privacy than they do today — including when they had extramarital affairs.

It was well known, for instance, that President John F. Kennedy had numerous mistresses while the press looked the other way.

There were some famous exceptions — usually when the politician was caught red-handed or the dalliance was tied to an unavoidable news event.

In Young's case, the news of the affair and out-of-wedlock child never emerged publicly.

"It all happened really fast, all the records were sealed and the wife he divorced wouldn't talk about it," said Robert Barnes, who was covering politics for the Times then, and now writes about the U.S. Supreme Court for the Washington Post.

Other journalists knew about the affair and the birth, but believed such issues fell outside the public's right to know.

"I was on the editorial board in 1984, not covering Young per se, but I remember that we were quite aware of what was going on and that it was scarcely if at all alluded to in print," said former Times journalist Martin Dyckman. "Those of us at the Times weren't comfortable exploiting a politician's private life so long as it didn't cross with his work."

While getting his secretary pregnant and marrying her raised eyebrows, Dyckman said, "No one suggested that he hired her for lascivious reasons or that she wasn't competent as a secretary."

That frame of mind changed in 1987 when presidential front-runner Gary Hart denied having an affair — and challenged reporters to try to prove that he was.

Some reporters with the Miami Herald did just that — uncovering the relationship between Hart and mistress Donna Rice.

"Before Hart, sex and politics mixed in the printer's ink only when something happened to make it unavoidable," said Dyckman, who is now retired.

After Hart, all was fair game — as Bill Clinton and others would come to learn.

• • •

After the divorce, Bill Young and his first three children drifted apart. Terry Young said he saw his father about seven times over the next 28 years.

"In all of these occasions he was kind and friendly," he said.

An older sister, Pamela Ernest, lives in the Washington area and saw him more frequently. She sent Christmas cards and left phone messages with his staff. Her father didn't always respond and never initiated the contact.

"It got to where I think it was hard to push back when I didn't get the call back," said Ernest, a former manager at Honeywell International's Washington-area office.

Marian Young affirmed her children's accounts of their communication attempts with their father.

"The kids tried to keep in touch with him," she said. "They would call, but they would get no calls back."

Kimber Butts, the youngest sibling, declined to comment for this story. But after Young's death in October, the three children from his first marriage wrote a short family history.

Their document, written by Terry Young and shared with the Times, includes a trove of tidbits that have long since faded from the national narrative.

They called it Bill Young — The Forgotten Years.

• • •

Terry Young said he and his sisters are coming forward to talk about their father because they believe that in the retelling of the Bill Young story, critical chapters have been left out.

"We are not political," their document begins. "We are not looking for media attention or publicity and we never did. It's just that if you read the news about his life you would think that he moved to Florida … then married Bev and had three children. We believe the 36 years with Marian were the richest and most productive part of his life."

Their story, accompanied by boxes of photos, depicts a leaner, hungrier Bill Young who advanced his career even as he struggled to stay afloat.

He had dropped out of St. Petersburg High School, where he had played football, to work in the St. Petersburg gas plant.

My mother said he wasn't much and not someone most people would bet on but she loved him instantly. She said that from when they first met she could see he was strong, confident, and highly intelligent.

Young built a flat-roofed house by hand on a quarter-acre off 66th Street and 96th Avenue in Pinellas Park. The family lived there six years.

We did all the normal things kids did like Little League Baseball, Peewee Football, and music and dance recitals for me and my sisters. Bill and Marian were there for all of them.

After the gas plant, he sold pots and pans. He went on to start his own insurance agency and ran for a seat on the Pinellas Park City Council. It was the only election he ever lost.

Young relied on his family's help when he ran for state Senate in 1960. Marian Young, an accomplished seamstress, made his suits, a contribution she continued well into the 1970s.

He loved the campaigning part of politics. He was very competitive and loved the challenge of it. He told me once he loved the campaign more than winning the election.

Over the years, Marian Young also made the Santa Claus costumes Young wore at Christmas. "He took Santa Claus very seriously," Terry said.

His children helped him nail up campaign signs and pass out literature in neighborhoods. "Every one of us had on shirts that said, 'Bill Young is my daddy. Vote for him for Senate,' " Terry said.

• • •

For Terry Young, 60, an associate director of cemeteries for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, and his siblings, 1960 means much more than the year their father first won elected office.

It also signifies the year Bill and Marian put up $3,000 they had saved to buy property for a summer lake home in Glenville, N.C.

The family spent extended vacations at the home every summer. Often joined by extended family or friends, they water-skied on the lake in the afternoons and listened to Bill and Terry play guitar in the evenings. They took hundreds of photos over the years as the kids grew bigger.

"He always told us that it was the family retreat and the family refuge," Terry said. "If anything bad ever happened in the world, we were all to meet there."

• • •

After Young's death, Beverly Young sent emails to a number of local politicians asking them to stay away from her husband's funeral.

The list included former Gov. Charlie Crist and Jessica Ehrlich, whose father was the lawyer for Marian Young during the divorce, and who sought Young's seat (and lost) in 2012.

Beverly Young told the Times the congressman himself had told her to keep those people away from his service.

The emails horrified Terry Young and his sisters.

"He would never, ever say that," Terry said. "That's why people liked him. He was always above the fray."

Beverly Young and the congressman's first family also disagree about what transpired around the time of the divorce.

Beverly Young says the congressman harbored a deep resentment because his children rebuffed his attempts at contact after the divorce — a direct contradiction of accounts given by his first family.

"Bill had no relationship with those kids," she said in a phone interview. "Not by his choice, by their choice."

Bill Young II, 29, the congressman's first child with Beverly, agreed that Terry and his sisters could have done more to stay close to their father.

"Those things can go two ways," he said. "They say he didn't initiate anything. I didn't see them show up at his door."

Beverly Young said her husband underwent multiple surgeries, including heart bypass surgery in 1996, without hearing from Terry Young or his sisters. Over the years the congressman also had surgery for a slipped disc, a kidney stone and gallbladder removal.

Terry Young said he and his sisters were told about his father's open-heart surgery only a couple of days beforehand and he wasn't informed of any other times that his father was sick.

To Beverly Young, Terry has come forward now because he "is trying to get rid of his guilt for being a horrible son."

"They are going to use the media to try to get back at me," she said. "It's been 30 years and it's a joke. He had nothing to do with them and he wanted nothing to do with them after he tried in the beginning. He would tell me to tell you they are not his family."

Young even once claimed that he "never had a son named Terry," his wife said.

Mrs. Young, 58, said she has wondered if her husband's first children resent her for being younger than they are.

Asked whether any photos of Young's first family were included in the photo montage at his funeral, Mrs. Young replied: "Hell, no. Why would I do that? Why should they be? They played no part in his life whatsoever. Consider that courtesy of me."

After that interview, Beverly Young, who is often outspoken about issues she feels passionately about, emailed the Times questioning this story.

"I have a hard time believing after a 30 year loving, successful marriage you would attempt to make Bill's life and marriage to me look anything less than it was," she wrote.

" … It's sad, that after thirty years (Marian Young) still can't accept the fact that he never loved her. … She attempted to make him stay in a loveless marriage by having her children, but once they were out of his home and grown adults he wanted to experience real love, life and happiness. And that's what we did. We did it when, where and how we wanted to."

• • •

More recently, a division within Beverly Young's family emerged over Bill Young's vacant House seat. According to his wife, Young hoped that David Jolly, a lawyer who had served as his aide, would succeed him.

Bill Young II recently told the Times he was unaware of his father having a favorite candidate. He supports Kathleen Peters, Jolly's opponent.

"You have hurt me beyond belief," Beverly Young told Bill Young II after a Dec. 6 Tiger Bay meeting as a Times reporter stood nearby.

When asked whether the conflict over endorsements had damaged her relationship with her son, she replied: "I have no relationship."

• • •

In the weeks after Bill Young's death, it became clear that the congressman and those closest to him not only had hidden parts of his family life, but also had shielded some health problems from the public.

On Oct. 9, from a hospital bed in Bethesda, Md., Young announced he would retire when his term in the House ended in January 2015. The news stunned many, including his wife.

"It surprised the s--- out of me," Beverly Young told the Times. "It floored me."

Young was admitted Oct. 4 to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. According to initial reports, Young's pain from a lingering back injury had become unbearable. After he was admitted, Mrs. Young said she discovered blood on a tissue she held to his mouth after he coughed during breakfast, causing her to summon doctors.

Doctors suspected a blood clot and wanted to operate, which Young refused.

After his death on Oct. 18, Young's family in a statement attributed the cause to "complications related to a chronic injury."

But there was more to the story, which would become clear three weeks later. In a Nov. 8 interview, Beverly Young told the Times that a broken hip and fractured pelvis, sustained in a fall in their rented Arlington, Va., home — not just the back pain he had struggled with for decades — had landed him in Walter Reed in the first place.

Doctors could not perform hip surgery because of brittle bones caused by yet another condition Mrs. Young was just now disclosing — multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that forms in bone marrow, diagnosed five years earlier.

In that interview, she said she believed it was the fall that caused the blood clot, ultimately costing her husband his life.

According to his wife, Young had considered publicly disclosing his cancer, but decided against it because doctors said he was responding well to treatment and it would not affect his job performance.

He successfully ran two more times for re-election.

• • •

The lack of acknowledgment of Young's first family at his funeral angered some, including the congressman's brother.

"That upset everybody that I knew, that they pulled that," said Tom Young, 79. "Because if it wasn't for Marian, Bill would not be where he was anyway. She backed him 100 percent. She even made his suits.

"It's all on one side and the other side is forgotten. It's not right."

On at least that sentiment, the congressman's first three children had a surprising ally at the service. Robert Young, Beverly's son by a previous marriage whom the congressman adopted, stunned nearly everyone when he mentioned the first family.

In an interview after the funeral, Robert Young, a clinical psychologist who devotes much of his practice to divorce, said the two families had never had any real contact due to an age gap and hard feelings surrounding the divorce.

He said he understands how Terry Young and his sisters must feel.

"He divorced their mother," Robert Young, 37, said. "If my father divorced my mother, I'd be p-----."

Asked why he decided to speak up and acknowledge their existence at the funeral, he said: "I just didn't think it was fair that they weren't being noticed."

• • •

For Marian Young, the end of a 36-year marriage was difficult.

She dated some, including one man for 10 years. But she never remarried. Despite the marriage being over, she wanted to stay true to her vows, especially "till death do us part."

"I'm just an old Southern gal," she said. "I stayed true to my whatever."

She acknowledged another incentive for remaining unmarried — the $2,000-a-month lifetime alimony negotiated by Charles Ehrlich and Bill Young's lawyer in exchange for her silence (an arrangement that Beverly Young confirmed in an interview with the Times).

Marian Young stayed out of the public eye, surfacing in 2008 to donate $2,300 to the campaign of Max Linn, a Democrat who was running against her ex-husband. (Linn, who lost, was her financial adviser.) She still lives in the Madeira Beach condominium she shared with the congressman.

The alimony stopped with his death. And for the first time in decades, Marian Young could talk publicly about the end of her marriage.

• • •

It is unclear whether Bill Young's will, which was filed in October, has been carried out.

Terry Young hoped to acquire his father's guitar, a pleasant remnant of those North Carolina summers. He said he and his sisters have heard nothing about the will and do not plan to contest it.

One night in the 1970s, Bill Young snapped a photo of the whole family together at the cabin. He did it with a delayed shutter, scurrying back from a tripod to sit on a porch swing between Marian and Kimber.

He is holding Bradley, his first grandson, in his arms.

In the first row are Adam, another grandson, Terry and his wife, Carol, and Pamela.

Everyone is smiling.

The photo is Terry Young's favorite, and he never tires of looking at it.

"I mean," he said, "there's a bunch of happy people right there."

The Glenville lakehouse, the family Shangri-La and bulwark against disaster, went to the congressman in the divorce, his ex-wife said. She got a parcel of land next door.

Both sold their properties.

Researchers Carolyn Edds and Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (727) 892-2248.