Harry Reid Dead at 82

For decades, former boxer was one of the toughest dealmakers in Congress
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 28, 2021 8:28 PM CST
Harry Reid Dead at 82
Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill on June 26, 2007.   (AP Photo/Dennis Cook, File)

Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader and Nevada’s longest-serving member of Congress, has died. He was 82. Reid died Tuesday, "peacefully" and surrounded by friends "following a courageous, four-year battle with pancreatic cancer," Landra Reid said of her husband in a statement. "Harry was a devout family man and deeply loyal friend,” she said. "We greatly appreciate the outpouring of support from so many over these past few years. We are especially grateful for the doctors and nurses that cared for him. Please know that meant the world to him." Funeral arrangements would be announced in coming days, she said.

The combative former boxer-turned-lawyer was widely-acknowledged as one of toughest dealmakers in Congress, a conservative Democrat in an increasingly polarized chamber who vexed lawmakers of both parties with a brusque manner and this motto: "I would rather dance than fight, but I know how to fight." Over a 34-year career in Washington, Reid thrived on behind-the-scenes wrangling and kept the Senate controlled by his party through two presidents—Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama—a crippling recession, and the GOP takeover of the House after the 2010 elections, the AP reports. He retired in 2016 after an accident left him blind in one eye.

Born in Searchlight, Nevada, to an alcoholic father who killed himself at 58 and a mother who served as a laundress in a bordello, Reid grew up in a small cabin without indoor plumbing. He hitchhiked to Basic High School in Henderson, Nev., 40 miles from home, where he met the wife he would marry in 1959, Landra Gould. At Utah State University, the couple became members of The Church of Latter-Day Saints. The future senator put himself through George Washington University law school by working nights as a US Capitol police officer. At age 28, Reid was elected to the Nevada Assembly and at age 30 became the youngest lieutenant governor in Nevada history. Elected to the House in 1982 and the Senate in 1986, Reid served in Congress longer than anyone else in Nevada history.

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Less than two weeks ago, officials and one of his sons, Rory Reid, marked the renaming of the busy Las Vegas airport as Harry Reid International Airport. Reid was known in Washington for his abrupt style, typified by his habit of unceremoniously hanging up the phone without saying goodbye. "Even when I was president, he would hang up on me," Obama said in a 2019 tribute video to Reid. Following Reid’s farewell address on the Senate floor in 2016, his Nevada colleague, Republican Sen. Dean Heller declared: "It’s been said that it’s better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both. And as me and my colleagues here today and those in the gallery probably agree with me, no individual in American politics embodies that sentiment today more than my colleague from Nevada, Harry Mason Reid." (More Harry Reid stories.)

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