LAS VEGAS (AP) – The life of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who rose from poverty and child deprivation in Nevada to one of the nation’s most powerful elected officials, will be celebrated by two US presidents and other Democratic leaders on Saturday, a testament to its impact on some of the most important legislation of the 21st century.
President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are expected to speak on Saturday at an invitation-only memorial to the longtime Senate Leader who died on December 28 at his home in Henderson, Nevada, at the age of 82 from complications from pancreatic cancer. Former President Barack Obama, who credits Reid with his rise to the White House, is due to deliver the eulogy.
“The president believes Harry Reid is one of the greatest leaders in Senate history,” White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Friday. “So he travels to pay homage to a man who had a profound impact on this nation.”
Biden served for two decades with Reid in the Senate and worked with him for eight years when Biden was vice president.
Along with Obama, Mr. Russell Ballard, senior apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will speak in the 2,000-seat concert hall about Reid’s 60 years in the Mormon faith. Vice-President Kamala Harris will also be in attendance.
“They are not only some of the most important leaders of our time, they are also some of Harry’s best friends,” Reid’s 62-year-old wife Landra Reid said in a statement announcing plans to the Smith Center for the Performing Arts event. “Harry loved every minute of his decades working with these leaders and the amazing things they accomplished together.”
Reid’s daughter and her four sons are also expected to speak.
Obama, in a letter to Reid before his death, recalled their close relationship, their different origins, and Reid’s rise from an impoverished former gold mining town of Searchlight in the Mojave Desert to leadership of Congress.
“Not bad for a poor skinny Searchlight boy,” Obama wrote. “I would not have been President without your encouragement and support, and I would not have achieved most of what I have done without your skills and determination.”
Reid served 34 years in Washington and led the Senate through a crippling recession and the Republican takeover of the House after the 2010 election.
He beefed up Obama’s health care law through the Senate; blocked plans for a national nuclear waste repository in the Nevada desert; author of a 1986 bill which created the Grand Bassin National Park; and was credited with helping casino company MGM Mirage gain financial backing to complete a multibillion-dollar project on the Strip during the Great Recession.
Harry Mason Reid hitchhiked 40 miles to high school and was an amateur boxer before being elected to the Nevada State Assembly at the age of 28. He was a graduate of Utah State University and worked nights as a United States Capitol Police Officer while dating George. Washington University Law School in Washington.
In 1970, at the age of 30, he was elected lieutenant governor of the state along with Democratic Governor Mike O’Callaghan. Reid was elected to the House in 1982 and to the Senate in 1986.
He built a political machine in Nevada that for years helped Democrats win key elections. When he retired in 2016 after an exercise accident at home left him blind in one eye, he chose former Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto to replace him.
Cortez Masto became Nevada’s first woman and the first Latina ever to be elected to the United States Senate.
“Above all, you’ve been a good friend,” Obama told Reid in his letter. “As different as we are, I think we both saw something of ourselves in each other – a few strangers who had defied the odds and knew how to take a punch and cared about the little one. guys.”
Singer-songwriter and environmentalist Carole King, and Brandon Flowers, frontman of Las Vegas-based rock band The Killers, are scheduled to perform at the memorial.
“The idea of Carole King performing in Harry’s honor is a tribute truly beyond words,” Landra Reid said in her statement. Reid is survived by his daughter, sons and many grandchildren.
Flowers, a longtime friend, shares the faith of Reids’ Latter-day Saints and has been headlining events such as a Lake Tahoe summit that Harry Reid founded in 1997 to draw attention to the ecology of the lake; and the National Clean Energy Summit which Reid helped launch in 2008 in Las Vegas.
Among other songs, Flowers was to sing the Nevada state anthem, “Home Means Nevada”.
Stephen J Cloobeck, a close family friend and founder and former CEO of a Las Vegas-based timeshare company, said he was sponsoring a rally for several hundred former members of Reid’s congress at the Bellagio complex on Friday. on the Las Vegas Strip.
Those flying to Las Vegas will arrive at the newly renamed Harry Reid International Airport. It was previously named after Pat McCarran, a former Democratic US senator from Nevada who once owned the airfield and whose legacy is clouded by racism and anti-Semitism.
Associated Press writer Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.
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