Harry Reid was one of the most powerful politicians in America, but he was a rags to riches story as the son of a poor gold miner from southern Nevada who went on to become the state's youngest Lieutenant Governor, then went toe-to-toe with the mafia as the head of the Nevada Gaming Commission in the late 1970s and early 1980s, before he came a congressman and eventually a Senator. Reid served as the Senate Majority Leader in the President Obama administration until he retired from politics in 2017.
RIP Harry Reid. Reid has been a fighter for his entire life, and even carried a loaded gun with him when he was the head of the Nevada Gaming Commission during the last vestiges of the mafia's control on Las Vegas. Reid spent 34 years as a politician before he lost a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer and passed away at age 82.
Reid grew up in the tiny mining town of Searchlight, which is approximately 60 miles south of Las Vegas. He joined his father in the gold mines before the search for the precious metal disappeared and went busto. Instead of becoming an old mining ghost town, Searchlight became a popular destination for prostitution. As the legend goes, Reid first learned how to swim in a swanky swimming pool behind whorehouse known as the El Rey.
Reid went to high school in Henderson, which at the time was just a small town on the way to Sin City. He became student body president, where he caught a first taste of politics.
After school, Reid had a brief stint as a prize fighter in Utah before enrolled at Utah State and eventually earned a law degree. He converted to Mormonism after the birth of his first child, but he was the rare Democrat in the church that was heavily Republican.
Reid spent time as an attorney in Nevada, when his close friend Mike O'Callaghan ran for governor of Nevada in 1970, Reid was persuaded to run as lieutenant governor. Reid won his first statewide race and became the youngest Lt. Governor in Nevada history. At the time he was only 31.
After his term of Lt. Gov ended, Reid lost his next two big races including Senate and mayor of Las Vegas. In 1977, much to the instance of O'Callaghan, Reid became the head of the Nevada Gaming Commission, even though he did not gamble. Reid took the job during an era in which the mafia still had a stranglehold on Las Vegas. Heck, we've all seen Casino and know how crazy it got in Nevada. Reid's closet friends were worried he'd get whacked or have his car blow up after he put mobster Tony 'The Ant' Spilotro into the infamous Black Book. Spilotro inspired the Nicky character played by Joe Pesci in Casino. Reid began carrying a gun with him to work.
Reid won Nevada's only congressional seat in 1982, then won a Senate bid in 1986. He was the minority whip and then took over as minority leader in the Senate in 2004. In 2006, Reid became the Senate Majority Leader when the Democrats took control of the Senate.
Reid spent 34 years in Washington as a politician, including 12 as the Democratic leader in the Senate, before he retired from politics in 2017.