To understand Senator Harry Reid, you must look to the small mining town of Searchlight, Nevada.
There in the desert, more than an hour away from the bright lights of Las Vegas is where he was born and raised.
Searchlight is where Harry Reid watched his father work as a hard rock miner. It’s where he attended a school with one teacher for eight grades. And it’s where he learned Nevada values like hard work, opportunity, and independence.
Today Harry Reid is the Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate, someone that has earned the respect of colleagues from both parties, and a powerful advocate for Nevada families. Every day Senator Reid puts his leadership position to work to deliver meaningful results for all Nevadans.
But he still lives in Searchlight, and he is still guided by the lessons and values he learned there.
The Las Vegas Sun newspaper summarized Senator Reid’s story by saying that he “has gone from underdog to Senate’s top dog.”
Parade Magazine, the nation’s largest weekly magazine, identified Senator Reid as one of a handful of leaders in Washington with “integrity and guts.”
Since Nevadans first elected him to the Senate in 1986, Harry Reid has developed a reputation as a consensus builder and a skillful legislator. His Republican colleagues have praised his reasoned, balanced approach.
Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican from Utah, has said, “We all respect Senator Reid. He is one of the moderate voices around here who tries to get things to work.”
And former Republican Senate Leader Trent Lott said, “Harry Reid is out there finding a solution. I enjoy working with him very much.”
Senator Reid has worked with both parties, including all members of the Nevada Congressional Delegation, to address the issues important to the state.
After Nevadans re-elected Senator Reid to a third Senate term in 1998, he was chosen by his colleagues to serve as the Assistant Democratic Leader, also known as the “Whip.” And after he won a fourth term in 2004 by a wide margin, he was unanimously elected Senate Democratic Leader. Since 2007, Harry Reid has served as the Senate Majority Leader. In 2010, he was re-elected as Nevada’s senior U.S. Senator.
Harry Reid isn’t afraid to speak his mind – but he isn’t afraid to listen, either.
Like the desert country that helped shape him, he doesn’t cry out for attention. He’s soft spoken – but when he talks, people listen.
He has earned the trust of both Democrats and Republicans, and his reputation for integrity and fairness has given the small state of Nevada a powerful voice in Congress.
Standing Tall For Nevada
Since he came to the Senate in 1986, Harry Reid has fought tirelessly to make Nevada an even better place to live by promoting economic development, investing in infrastructure, working to address the foreclosure crisis, investing in clean energy development, fighting the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump, delivering quality affordable health care, protecting Social Security, and ensuring the readiness of our military. As a result of surges in the state’s population over the last decade, Senator Reid is using his leadership position to continue to meet Nevada’s unique needs.
As the Majority Leader, Senator Reid is working on building a clean energy future that will help provide Nevadans with safe, reliable and affordable supplies of clean energy, and he is championing efforts to make Nevada the nation’s leader in clean energy. He has supported investments in renewable energy, transmission lines, and energy efficiency that create jobs and reduce energy costs for Nevada families. Since 2000, he has secured over $100 million for Nevada-based projects to research and advance our nation’s renewable energy and energy efficiency capabilities, and he is also helping to pioneer renewable energy development on public lands in Nevada. Since 2008, Senator Reid has joined with the Center for American Progress Action Fund and UNLV to host an annual National Clean Energy Summit in Nevada. These summits bring business leaders, elected officials, and experts in energy development and technology together to develop policy recommendations that guide federal and local government in developing clean renewable energy and growing a greener, more sustainable economy.
Senator Reid has also secured hundreds of millions of dollars to make Nevada safer. These funds have helped put more police on the street, and ensured that Nevada’s military bases throughout the state have the vital funding they need. In 2005, Senator Reid worked with the Base Realignment and Closure Committee (BRAC) and fought to successfully prevent the removal of the Nevada Air National Guard C-130 Aircraft and the closure of the Hawthorne Army Depot. He also worked tirelessly to ensure the Southern Nevada Veterans Administration Medical Complex became a reality. He secured over $600 million for the project and because of Senator Reid’s work, the 700,000 square-foot center will open in 2012 for Nevada’s veterans.
As an avid sportsman, Senator Reid has long been a champion of Nevada’s outdoors. In 1986, he authored and passed legislation establishing Nevada’s first national park, Great Basin National Park, He has led the fight to protect and restore Lake Tahoe, and in 1997 he invited President Clinton and Vice President Gore to join him at Lake Tahoe and secured a federal commitment to restore and protect the lake. From this, the annual Lake Tahoe Summit was created, which brings leaders of all political stripes together with the common goal of preserving Lake Tahoe’s clarity.
While some are taking away funding from Nevada schools, Senator Reid has used his leadership position to deliver more federal funding to invest in Nevada students, reduce class sizes, and lower the dropout rate. He also helped make college more affordable by increasing grant aid and making student loan payments more manageable. He has also secured hundreds of millions of dollars for Nevada’s colleges and universities for research in energy, medical, and science industries.
A Focus on Family
Born in the small rural mining town of Searchlight, Harry Reid grew up in a small cabin without indoor plumbing, and attended a two-room elementary school.
As a small boy he would accompany his father, Harry Reid Sr., for long days deep underground in the mines. His father was a hard rock miner with an eighth grade education and his mother never completed high school; yet, the youngest of Harry and Inez Reid’s four sons would go on to achieve the American dream.
Searchlight had no high school, so after eighth grade, Harry began attending Basic High School in Henderson, where he boarded with local families during the school week.
It was at Basic High that he met Landra Gould, who became his high-school sweetheart. In 1959, two years after they had graduated from Basic, Harry and Landra were married. In 1961, their first child and only daughter – Lana – was born. Son Rory was born in 1962, and three more brothers – Leif, Josh, and Key – followed .
Basic High was also where Harry Reid met a teacher named Mike O’Callaghan who would play many roles in his life: teacher, boxing coach, political mentor, trusted advisor, and best friend.
After high school, some businessmen in Henderson helped him go on to college, an act of generosity that Harry Reid would work hard to repay in the years that followed. He graduated from Utah State University in 1961 and went on to get a law degree from George Washington University. During these years as a law student, he supported his young family by working nights as a U.S. Capitol police officer.
After completing law school, the Reids headed back to Henderson where Harry served as the City Attorney, revising the city charter and working on extending Henderson’s boundaries by acquiring federal land. His outstanding record helped him win an election to the Nevada State Assembly in 1968, at age 28.
In Carson City, as a young assemblyman, he introduced the first air pollution legislation in Nevada’s history and also worked on laws to protect consumers. In 1970, at the age of 30, Harry Reid became the youngest Lieutenant Governor in Nevada history, winning election as Governor Mike O’Callaghan’s running mate.
In 1977, he was appointed Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, where for five years, he made headlines with his legendary and unrelenting fight to clean up Nevada’s gaming industry.
Harry Reid returned to his private law practice for a few years, and, in 1982, won the first of two terms in the United States House of Representatives. In the House, he championed issues important to Nevada families, introducing the Taxpayer Bill of Rights as well as legislation to protect Nevada’s wilderness.
He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986, and re-elected in 1992, 1998, 2004, and 2010. He has served as the chairman or senior Democratic member on several important committees and subcommittees, and is currently the Senate Majority Leader.
Harry Reid is a tireless worker, and it isn’t unusual for him to be the first Senator to arrive at the Capitol in the morning and the last to go home at night.
Despite the demands of his career in government, Harry Reid’s family has always been his first priority. The bonds forged in the tight-knit family have only grown stronger as the Reid children have grown up, embarked on their own careers, and started their own families.
Today, Senator Reid and Landra are the proud grandparents of 19 grandchildren.