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Harry Reid, Former US Senator and Democratic Party Leader, Dies at 82

Published by: Carolyn Brooks Fleming on Dec 30, 2021.

Harry Reid, a former U.S. Senator from Nevada and Democratic party leader, died on December 28, 2021. He was 82.

He grew up in Searchlight, Nevada, in a home with no running water or telephone. His father was a miner and his mother was a laundress. Reid was raised as an agnostic. He once said, “I grew up around people of strong values — even if they rarely talked about them.”

He began dating his future wife, Landra, in high school. Landra’s father and Reid had a physical fight early in the courtship because her family wanted her to marry someone who was Jewish. However, the two eloped during their college years and embraced the Mormon faith. Reid put himself through law school at George Washington University by serving as a U.S. Capitol police officer.

At the age of 30, Reid became the youngest lieutenant governor in Nevada history, elected alongside his former high-school boxing coach, Governor Mike O’Callaghan. Reid was elected to the U.S. House in 1982, then to the Senate in 1986. Reid served for three decades in Congress, ultimately becoming the Democratic party leader from 2005 to 2017, including eight years as the majority leader.

During the Obama presidential era, Reid maneuvered the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, through the Senate. He later said, “I spent eight years working as Obama’s quarterback, working through the Senate to get the Affordable Care Act passed. It’s too bad there are efforts to weaken it, but it’s still here.”

In 2013, Reid initiated a change to Senate rules that prevented filibusters for judicial nominations. In 2019, after his retirement, he called for an end to the filibuster in all circumstances, because “The American people elect leaders to address the issues facing our country, not to cower behind arcane parliamentary procedure.”

Reid offered inspiration to everyone during his farewell address to the Senate in 2016: “I didn’t make it in life because of my athletic prowess. I didn’t make it because of my good looks. I didn’t make it because I’m a genius. I made it because I worked hard.”

Reid died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, but he lived to see Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport renamed as the Harry Reid International Airport. He is survived by his wife Landra and five children.

To learn more, view these quotes by Harry Reid.