Speed Reads

rest in peace

Harry Reid, former Senate majority leader, dies at 82

Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who grew up in the tiny mining town of Searchlight and went on to become one of the longest-serving Senate majority leaders, died on Tuesday, his former chief of staff confirmed. He was 82.

In 2018, Reid was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Born on Dec. 2, 1939, to Harry Sr., a hard rock miner, and Inez, a laundress for casinos and brothels, Reid grew up in a home that didn't have indoor plumbing. As a teenager, he had to hitchhike 40 miles to go to a high school near Las Vegas, and it was there he met his wife, Landra Gould, and social studies teacher Mike O'Callaghan, who became his mentor, boxing coach, and a two-term governor of Nevada.

Reid and his wife joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after they married, and he graduated from Utah State University in 1961 before attending law school at George Washington University. During college, he competed in more than a dozen amateur middleweight boxing matches, writing in his autobiography The Good Fight, "I could assess situations well, and I learned to recognize and exploit an opposing fighter's weaknesses. I could hit hard, and I could take a punch. But I never had a bloody nose."

Before winning his Senate seat in 1986, Reid was a trial lawyer, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, lieutenant governor, and House member. He was one of Nevada's biggest champions, and worked to establish the state's first national park, Great Basin National Park, and block a project that would have turned Yucca Mountain into a permanent nuclear waste repository. Earlier this month, Las Vegas' international airport was named in Reid's honor. 

Reid served as Senate majority leader from 2007 through 2014, and his greatest legislative achievement was guiding the health care bill through the chamber in 2009. After his retirement in 2016, Reid became a fellow at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas law school. He is survived by his wife; daughter Lana Barringer; sons Rory, Leif, Josh, and Key Reid; a brother; 19 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.