Don Clausen, a Republican who served 20 years in Congress representing California’s northern coast and became a steward of the Redwood National Park within his district, died Feb. 7 at a hospital in Fortuna, Calif. He was 91.
The cause was complications from diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other heart and lung conditions, said a son-in-law, Jim Baumgartner.
Mr. Clausen, a Navy combat flier in World War II, became a flight instructor and operated an air-ambulance service. He became GOP party chairman in Del Norte County and a member of the county Board of Supervisors before seeking a U.S. House seat in 1962.
He challenging two-term incumbent Rep. Clement Miller (D), who perished in a plane crash — along with the pilot and the pilot’s teenage son — near a campaign stop weeks before the general election.
Miller was posthumously reelected, but Mr. Clausen won a special election in January 1963 to fill the seat. He became a ranking Republican on the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee and the Public Works and Transportation Committee before losing reelection in 1982 to Douglas Bosco, a Democrat who served in the state legislature.
Mr. Clausen was known for steering federal projects to his district. He said he had survived politically as long as he had in a Democratic-majority district because of his moderate stances.
“There was no alternative” to bipartisanship, he told the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, Calif., in 2013.
Donald Holst Clausen was born April 27, 1923, on his father’s dairy farm in Ferndale, Calif. He played semi-professional baseball in his youth — profiles noted he was an ambidextrous pitcher — and attended several colleges in California and Utah before his military service in World War II.
When Mr. Clausen’s congressional career ended, President Ronald Reagan appointed him director of special projects at the Federal Aviation Administration. He retired in 1990 and then moved to Santa Rosa, Calif.
His wife of 63 years, the former Jessie Oleva “Ollie” Piper, died in 2012. Survivors include a daughter, Dawn Baumgartner of Ferndale; a stepdaughter, Beverly Smith of Keene, Tex.; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.