The former McCarran International Airport Las Vegas was just recently changed to Harry Reid International Airport. The airport’s new namesake, former U.S. Senator Harry Reid, died yesterday after an extended battle with pancreatic cancer.
He was 82.
Thank you, Harry Reid. We are forever grateful for your commitment and foresight into preserving tribal waters. pic.twitter.com/4AenOeicK1— Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (@plpt) December 29, 2021
Reid was a political titan from Nevada. His youth was spent in the southern part of the state–Searchlight–being raised in a mining family.
He was an amateur boxer, became an attorney after attending colleges in Utah and even served in the U.S. Capitol Police force.
His political career started in the late ‘60s when he was elected to the Nevada State Assembly.
Very sad to learn of the passing of Senator Harry Reid. Along with all that he did for our state and country, he also supported law enforcement and was always quick to proudly show his badge from his early years working for the Capitol Police. Condolences to his family-— Jason Soto (@ChiefJasonSoto) December 29, 2021
Reid had a lasting impact on all things Nevada. Not just while a U.S. senator, but all through his political career. He became a world-level leader after years of public service culminating in his election to the U.S. Senate in 1986, where he served until early 2017.
He was majority leader from 2006 until 2015 and became minority leader through his final term after the Senate flipped to the Republican party.
Just heard about the passing of @SenatorReid. He would do this trick with me at stairs and grab my arm and ask how I was doing at the same time used me as a handle down. He was the nicest but toughest guys I ever met.He had great stories and did so much for the state of Nevada.— Chuck King (@tick0) December 29, 2021
Reid was notoriously loathed in rural parts of the state – “elect anyone butt Harry Reid” signs littered rural counties for years, even after Reid was no longer in office – but celebrated in the Silver State’s urban centers.
"Meet Harry Reid, Nevada's youngest elected state official" – Reno Gazette-Journal, 51 years ago this week: pic.twitter.com/DAUaoAhVDV— Greg Giroux (@greggiroux) December 29, 2021
He stood up for Nevada tribes and was instrumental in major water conservation efforts – Walker River water right buyouts and the Truckee River Operating Agreement, in particular.
The senator was a major proponent of land conservation as well, including support for the Basin and Range and Gold Butte National Monuments. He repeatedly fought against Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage.
Reid weathered political and ethical controversies throughout his career. Although a Democrat, he initially said he believed Roe v. Wade should be overturned but appeared to soften his stance on abortion later in his career.
He notably was chastized for referring to then president candidate Barack Obama in racist terms: “light-skinned” with “no Negro dialect” unless Obama wanted one. Reid swiftly apologized and said he misspoke.
Senator Harry Reid was one of the towering figures in the history of Nevada. The Senator’s career in public service belongs on the state’s Mount Rushmore as an example of a legendary leader who always put the needs, dreams and future of the people of Nevada first. (1/5)— Brian Sandoval (@Pres_Sandoval) December 29, 2021
Obama posted on Twitter in the wake of Reid’s passing. He shared a letter he wrote to Reid after he received news of Reid’s declining health.
“As different as we are, I think we both saw something of ourselves in each other – a couple of outsiders who had defied the odds and knew how to take a punch and care for the little guy,” Obama wrote. “And you know what, we made for a pretty good team. The world is better for what you’ve done. Not bad for a skinny, poor kid from Searchlight.”
When Harry Reid was nearing the end, his wife Landra asked some of us to share letters that she could read to him. In lieu of a statement, here’s what I wrote to my friend: pic.twitter.com/o6Ll6rzpAX— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 29, 2021
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.