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Timeline: The milestones that brought Harry Reid from Searchlight to the Senate

Obit Harry Reid
Posted at 8:02 PM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 01:23:20-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Nevada political giant Harry Reid died on Tuesday after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

A decades-long career in politics brought Reid from tiny Searchlight, Nevada to the most powerful seat in the U.S. Senate. A timeline of significant events in his life and career shows how he got there, and what he did after:

Humble beginnings

1939: Reid was born to humble beginnings at his childhood home, a shack with no indoor toilet, hot water, or telephone.

He attended Basic High School in Henderson, where he played football and was an amateur boxer. At Basic, he met future Nevada Gov. Mike O'Callaghan, who was a teacher there and served as Reid's boxing coach.

But he also met his future wife there, Landra Gould. Together, they had five children: Lana, Rory, Leif, Josh, and Key. Rory Reid is a former Clark County Commission chairman.

1961: Harry Reid attended college in Utah — graduating from Utah State University — and he and his wife, who was born Jewish, converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

1964: A natural advocate, Reid earned his law degree at George Washington School of Law and was a member of the United States Capitol Police Force from 1961-64.

Reid enters the political sphere

1964-66: He first stepped into public life as Henderson's city attorney before he was elected to the Nevada Assembly in 1969.

1970: At age 30, he was chosen by Mike O'Callaghan as his running mate for lieutenant governor of Nevada. Reid and O'Callaghan both won their races, making Reid the youngest lieutenant governor in Nevada's history.

1975: After serving as lieutenant governor, Reid made his first bid for the U.S. Senate and lost. He then ran for Las Vegas mayor and lost again.

1977-81: He took a break from campaigning to serve as the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission.

1982: Still with a passion for politics, Reid was elected a congressman.

Reid the senator

1986: He ran for U.S. Senate again and won.

1987-2017: Reid represented Nevada in the Senate. In that time, he became Senate majority leader and minority leader, as well as the chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

MORE: Harry Reid's legacy: A staunch opponent of Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal site

Through his career, he had the ear of many U.S. presidents and a close bond with former President Barack Obama. Reid did not run for reelection in 2016 and retired from the Senate in 2017.


Reid became an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump after Hillary Clinton lost her presidential bid. A lifelong advocate for equal rights and tolerance, Reid spoke out against anti-Semitism and hate as recently as April of 2019 at UNLV.

Even though the boy from Searchlight became a Washington insider, he never stopped advocating for change in Nevada. He was vocal about renaming McCarran airport, calling former Sen. Patrick McCarran, the airport's namesake, a racist and anti-Semite.

Today, the airport bears Reid's name, a change that took effect just this month.