Harry Reid was named Senate champion at the memorial service

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – The leaders of Nevada and Washington bid farewell to former U.S. Senator Harry Reid on Saturday during a memorial at the Smith Center for Performing Arts in Las Vegas.

President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama were among the dignitaries in attendance, in addition to Reid’s family and friends.

Reid, who was 82, lost his four-year battle with pancreatic cancer on December 28, closing the final chapter in an incredible life journey that took him from his humble beginnings in Searchlight, Nevada to becoming the Majority leader in the US Senate, one of the most powerful political positions in the country.

Reid’s impact

Reid became the Senate Majority Leader in 2007, during the presidency of Republican George W. Bush, and held that position, for much of the presidency of Democrat Barack Obama, until 2015, when the Republicans seized power in the Senate. He retired in 2017.

Obama has always credited Reid with encouraging him to run for president. Upon hearing of his death, he shared a letter he had recently written to Reid which spoke of him not only as a “great leader” but also as a good friend.

As different as we are, I think we both saw something of ourselves in each other – a couple of strangers who had defied the odds and knew how to take a punch and cared. of the little guy. And you know what, we were a pretty good team.

– Former President Barack Obama

Reid, a Democrat, was Nevada’s longest-serving congressman. He was known to be a difficult negotiator during his more than four decades of public service.

Reid’s successor, Senator Charles Schumer, said Reid “was strong as nails, but caring and compassionate, and always went out of his way to help those who needed help.

During Saturday’s service, Schumer recalled that Reid once gave him $ 400 to buy a new pair of shoes.

“You know you’ve worked hard and done a lot of good things to be a Democratic leader, but you need to dress better, please buy better shoes,” Schumer recalls telling him as Reid.

Former President Barack Obama speaks at a memorial service honoring former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at the Smith Center in Las Vegas on Saturday, January 8, 2022 (AP Photo / Susan Walsh )

Obama, who delivered the eulogy, recalled his friend who helped him achieve much of his presidential accomplishments.

“Harry was the first to admit that he was not the most charismatic or the most politically correct orator,” Obama said. “But Harry knew who he was and he had the distinct advantage of not really understanding what people were thinking of him.”

President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff attend a memorial service for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at the Smith Center in Las Vegas on Saturday, January 8 2022. (AP Photo / Susan Walsh)

The former president noted Reid’s rise from a small town an hour south of Las Vegas to the corridors of Washington.

Biden first met Reid in the 1980s, when they served together in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York leaves the stage after speaking at a memorial service for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at the Smith Center in Las Vegas on Saturday 8 January 2022. (AP Photo / Susan Walsh)

“The thing with Harry: he never gave up.” He never gave up. He never gave up on the people he cared about, ”Biden said.

Biden spent much of his speech acknowledging his close friendship with Reid, including political fights and their personal telephone conversations.

“It was all Searchlight, no spotlight,” Biden said of Reid’s willingness to make changes in a local and national landscape. “He was proof that there is nothing ordinary in America.”

Reid was instrumental in passing important laws such as the Affordable Care Act to overhaul the health insurance market and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to stimulate the economy during the Great Recession. He also halted a nuclear waste repository project at Yucca Mountain, passed the DREAM Act, and is credited with keeping huge local construction projects alive during the Great Recession, including the expansion of what is now known as Harry Reid International Airport. .

The name of the airport was officially changed a few weeks before Reid’s death. Although he did not attend the name change ceremony, he said in a statement, “it is the greatest of honor to have my name at this airport.”

Political start

After earning a law degree, Reid began his public service career as a lawyer for the town of Henderson. At 28, he was elected to the Nevada Assembly and at 30 became the youngest lieutenant governor in Nevada history as Gov. Mike O’Callaghan’s running mate in 1970. O’Callaghan, who had been his boxing coach in high school, encouraged him to enter politics and became his life mentor.

In 1982, Reid was elected to the United States House, then was elected to the United States Senate in 1986 where he served until 2017.

Singer-songwriter and environmentalist Carole King performs “In the Name of Love” during a memorial service for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at the Smith Center in Las Vegas on Saturday, January 8, 2022 . (AP Photo / John Locher)

Private life

Reid has been married to his high school girlfriend Landra Gould for 62 years. The two escaped and had five children, four sons and a daughter.

“He was a dedicated family man and a deeply loyal friend,” she said in a statement after his death.

Lana Reid, daughter of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, speaks during a memorial service for her father at the Smith Center in Las Vegas on Saturday, January 8, 2022 (AP Photo / Susan Walsh)

Reid, who was raised agnostic, and his wife Landra, born to immigrant Jewish parents, converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while in college.

Reid will lie in the state on the United States Capitol on Wednesday. He will then be buried at Searchlight.

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