Harry Reid Biography

(United States Senator from Nevada from 1987 to 2017)

Birthday: December 2, 1939 (Sagittarius)

Born In: Searchlight, Nevada, United States

Harry Reid was an American lawyer and politician who served as a United States senator from Nevada from 1987 to 2017 and was Nevada's longest-serving senator at the time of his retirement. He led the Senate Democratic Caucus from 2005 to 2017 and was the Senate Majority Leader from 2007 to 2015. A lawyer from Henderson, he started his political career as a member of the Nevada Assembly from the 4th district in 1969 before being elected the 25th Lieutenant Governor of Nevada under governor, and his former teacher, Mike O'Callaghan in 1970. Following unsuccessful campaigns for the United States Senate and mayor of Las Vegas, he served as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission from 1977 to 1981. He subsequently represented Nevada's 1st district in the United States House of Representatives from 1983 to 1987 before being elected to the United States Senate. He has also served as Senate Democratic whip and Senate Minority Leader. In 2001, he was instrumental in persuading Jim Jeffords, a Republican senator from Vermont, to become an independent and vote with the Democrats, giving them majority.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Harry Mason Reid Jr.

Died At Age: 82


Spouse/Ex-: Landra Gould (m. 1959–2021)

father: Harry Reid

mother: Inez Orena Reid

children: Josh Reid, Key Reid, Lana Reid, Leif Reid, Rory Reid

Born Country: United States

Political Leaders American Men

Height: 5'10" (178 cm), 5'10" Males

Died on: December 28, 2021

place of death: Henderson, Nevada, United States

Cause of Death: Pancreatic Cancer

Ideology: Democrats

U.S. State: Nevada

More Facts

education: George Washington University, Utah State University, Southern Utah University

Childhood & Early Life

Harry Mason Reid Jr. was born on December 2, 1939, in Searchlight, Nevada, United States, as the third of four sons of his parents, and grew up in a shack with no indoor plumbing.

His father, Harry Reid, the son of an English immigrant from Darlaston, Staffordshire, was an alcoholic rock miner who committed suicide in 1972, following which his mother, Inez Orena Reid, did laundry for local brothels.

His small, impoverished town had no high school, so he boarded with relatives 40 miles away in Henderson to attend Basic High School, where he played football and was an amateur boxer. He attended Southern Utah University and graduated, with double majors in political science and history, from Utah State University in 1961.

He also minored in economics at Utah State's School of Commerce and Business Administration. He then pursued a law degree at George Washington University Law School while working as a police officer for the United States Capitol Police and obtained his Juris Doctor in 1964.

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Harry Reid returned to Nevada after completing law school and began working as a city attorney in Henderson before being elected to the Nevada State Assembly in 1968.

At 30, he was elected as the youngest lieutenant governor in Nevada’s history after Mike O'Callaghan, his high school teacher and boxing coach, selected him as his running mate while running for Governor in 1970.

After serving as lieutenant governor from 1971 until 1974, he decided to contest the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Alan Bible, but lost to former governor Paul Laxalt by just 611 votes. In 1975, he ran for mayor of Las Vegas and gained more votes than fellow democrat William Briare in the non-partisan primary, but eventually lost to him in the general election.

While he was serving as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission from 1977 to 1981, businessman Jack Gordon offered him $12,000 bribe to get approval of new games for casinos in 1978. In response, he worked with the FBI on a sting operation, during which he lost his temper and attempted to choke Gordon, before getting him arrested and jailed for six months.

In 1979, he presided over the hearing that refused to issue a gaming license to casino operator Frank Rosenthal because of his ties to organized crime groups. However, he was accused of having gained favors from mobsters after they claimed, in FBI wiretaps, that Reid was under their control, but Governor Robert List dismissed the accusations as baseless.

When population growth resulted in a second district in Nevada following the 1980 Census, he contested for the United States House of Representatives from Nevada's 1st congressional district. He easily won the Democratic primary and defeated Republican opponent Peggy Cavnar by 57.54%-42.46% vote in the general election in 1982 and won a reelection bid against her in 1984.

In 1986, he won the Democratic primary for the seat vacated by retiring two-term incumbent Republican Senator Paul Laxalt and defeated Jim Santini, a Democrat who had turned Republican, in the November general election.

During his first term, he introduced a bill that was made into the law, The Nevada Wilderness Protection Act, on December 5, 1989 and helped create 13 new wilderness areas, including Mount Charleston.

He was reelected for a second term in 1992 when he widened his margin to double digits against Republican opponent Demar Dahl. In 1998, he narrowly defeated John Ensign by 400 votes in the midst of a statewide Republican sweep and maintained a very good relationship with Ensign, who won Nevada's other Senate seat in 2000.

He again expanded his margin and received 61 percent of the vote in his reelection bid against Republican candidate Richard Ziser in 2004. However, he faced a tough competition in the 2010 general election and spent $1 million in media campaign to "reintroduce himself" to the state's voters, managing to secure win by 50.3%-44.6% against Sharron Angle.

He served as Senate Democratic Whip in 1999-2005, minority whip in 1999-2001 and again in 2003-05, majority whip in 2001-03, Majority Leader in 2007-15, and Minority Leader in 2005-07 and again after 2015.

After suffering severe injuries in an exercise accident in January 2015, he announced in March that he would not seek reelection in November 2016 and endorsed Senator Chuck Schumer to succeed him as minority leader.

Family & Personal Life & Legacy

Harry Reid first met his future wife Landra Gould when both of them were in high school. Because he was not from a Jewish family, her Jewish parents objected to the relationship, but the couple decided to elope in 1959 when they were in college.

He has a daughter and four sons, including eldest son Rory, who was an elected commissioner for Clark County, Nevada, and Josh, who unsuccessfully sought municipal office in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. He lived in the Anthem area of Henderson, Nevada, and while he was raised an agnostic, he converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while he was a college student.

He injured himself on January 1, 2015 after a device he was using broke, causing him to suffer broken ribs and broken facial bones and putting him at risk of permanent vision loss. Reid, who underwent surgery to remove blood clot from his right eye and repair facial bones, sued the company that manufactured the device, but it was rejected due to lack of evidence.

After a tumor was detected on his pancreas during a routine screening, he underwent another surgery on May 14, 2018 for pancreatic cancer at Johns Hopkins Cancer Center. While he announced in February 2019 that his cancer was in remission due to early detection and chemotherapy, he died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Henderson on December 28, 2021.


In 1981, Harry Reid’s wife found a car bomb wired to the gas tank of her Oldsmobile station wagon. Reid, who once admitted Frank “Rosenthal was the only person that I was ever afraid of”, suspected him or Gordon to be involved in the bomb scare, but it was never proven in court.

See the events in life of Harry Reid in Chronological Order

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