Presidents, prominent politicians, family and friends gathered in Harry Reid’s home state of Nevada on Saturday to pay their tributes and remembrances to the former Senate majority leader and Democratic Party luminary.
Former president Barack Obama gave the eulogy at the Smith Center in Las Vegas to honor Reid for his decades of public service. President Joe Biden spoke of Reid’s “unmistakably American” ascent from the hardscrabble town of Searchlight to assuming leadership of the U.S. Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke of Reid’s dedication to his country and service to Congress.
“Few people have done more for this state, this country, as this driven, brilliant, sometimes irascible, deeply good man from Searchlight, Nevada,” Obama said.
Reid is widely regarded as the most powerful and influential politician from Nevada, transforming the Republican state into a Democratic stronghold that has been blue in every presidential election since 2004.
“Without Harry, there would be no Affordable Care Act,” Obama said, acknowledging Reid’s family grew up without health insurance.
“When Harry put everything he had into passing the ACA, he didn’t do it to furnish his own legacy,” he said. “He did it for the people back home, and families like his who needed someone looking out for them. Nobody else was.”
The former president also remembered Reid as a fighter, both in his political career and as an amateur boxer.
“Hardship had forged a steel in Harry,” Obama said. “He inherited a fighting spirit that explained his success in the boxing ring, despite being significantly undersized.”
The two party leaders made a “a darn good team,” Obama said. “I could not have asked for a better, truer friend,” he added.
Biden spoke to Reid’s loyalty, devotion and dedication as a public service, as he served with Reid during his time in the Senate and worked with him as vice president.
Biden said the two were “genuine friends,” despite their differences in background and religion.
“Harry would always have your back … Harry had mine, and he knew I had his,” Biden said.
Biden said that Reid “led the Democratic caucus not just by speaking but by listening,” and touted his sense of duty rather than a desire to be the center of attention.
“He was proof that there’s nothing ordinary about America,” Biden said. “He’s proof that ordinary Americans can be anything given half a chance.”
“Let there be no doubt,” Biden added. “Harry Reid will be considered one of the greatest Senate majority leaders in United States history.”
Schumer called Reid his friend and mentor in the Senate, saying the former majority leader was “one of a kind,” and spoke to his generosity and friendship.
“He was tough as nails, a fighter to his core, but also one of the most compassionate individuals you could ever imagine.”
In her remarks, Pelosi said Reid was a “towering titan of public service” and praised him for his dedication to his constituents.
“He did everything he could to make sure Nevadans’ voices were heard,” she said.
Pelosi said Reid will be remembered for his kindness toward his colleagues, staff and anyone he met in the Capitol.
“For his great legislative achievements, his most enduring public legacy will be that he was beloved. a word not often used to describe political candidates … because he treated everyone with dignity and respect,” Pelosi said.
Republican Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Richard Shelby of Alabama were also in attendance. Vice President Kamala Harris was there, too.
Reid’s roots sprung from the small town of Searchlight in southern Nevada. He eventually left the state to study at Southern Utah University, Utah State University, and then went to George Washington University to study law. He worked as a Capitol police officer while in law school, before returning to Nevada to join the state assembly.
Reid was elected to the House of Representatives in 1982, and won his Senate seat in 1986. He served for 30 years, becoming the longest-serving senator from Nevada by the time he retired in 2017. Reid is survived by his wife of 62 years, Landra, their five children and many grandchildren.
Lana Reid Barringer, eldest daughter of Harry and Landra, spoke about her father’s generosity and dedication not just to the country, but also to his family.
“He was always there for our family, and he made time for anything that was important to us,” she said.
Many of the speakers remembered Reid’s habit of abruptly hanging up phone calls. Reid’s son, Leif, said this was true, but that the leader always took calls from his family.
“As busy as he was on the Senate, speaking with a head of state, whatever it was — my dad always took our calls,” he said. “And he never made us feel like he was busy, didn’t have the time to give us a moment to help us.”
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints M. Russell Ballard also spoke at the service.
Ballard said that Reid embodied the Bible verse Matthew 25:40 — “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
“Harry cared for the least of these — those who were less fortunate, hungry, sick, and those who have had a number of challenges,” Ballard said.
Brandon Flowers of Las Vegas rock band The Killers performed “Be Still” and “Home Means Nevada.” The Killers played at many of Reid’s campaign events and Reid’s son, Leif, said The Killers were “the last musical request he ever made.”
Singer-songwriter Carole King also performed her song “In the Name of Love.”
Reid died Dec. 28 at the age of 82 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Following the funeral, Reid’s body will be transported to Washington, D.C., where he will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 12. Pelosi called the honor “a proper tribute for a historic, patriotic American.”
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