Reid, the scrappy former Democratic Senate leader who spearheaded epic legislative battles throughout three decades in Congress, died in December at age 82 following a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
Reid’s service will pay tribute to his unlikely life. A child born into abject poverty in a tiny speck of a town called Searchlight, he went on to become the most powerful politician in Nevada history, helping to turn the Western state into a Democratic stronghold that last backed a Republican president in 2004.
In addition to Biden and Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will speak at the memorial service, which is being held at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
“We are honored to have such a distinguished group paying tribute to Harry’s life and accomplishments,” said Landra Reid, the late senator’s wife. “These are not only some of the most consequential leaders of our time — they are also some of Harry’s best friends.”
Additionally, Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of the Las Vegas-founded band The Killers and a frequent fixture at big campaign events for Harry Reid over the years, will perform, along with legendary songwriter and musician Carole King.
“We’re touched to have two of Harry’s favorite artists joining us as well. Our family is eternally grateful for Brandon and everything he’s done for Harry and us over the years. And the thought of having Carole King performing in Harry’s honor is a tribute truly beyond words,” Landra Reid said.
Members of the Reid family will also speak at the event.
Harry Reid’s political career grew with Nevada — leading the senator to become synonymous with the Democratic Party in the state. When Nevada went from one congressional district to two after the 1980 census, Reid ran for a newly created congressional district around Las Vegas in 1982 and won the general election. He was reelected in 1984. He then successfully ran for Nevada’s open Senate seat in 1986.
He rose through the leadership ranks there, serving as the chamber’s Democratic whip from 1999 to 2005. From 2005 through his retirement in 2017, he served as his party’s leader in the Senate, through Democrats’ time in both the minority and the majority.
Obama eulogizing Reid is a full circle moment for the duo. Reid, then as the Democratic leader in the Senate, urged then-Sen. Obama to run for president long before he was seen as a presidential contender. After Obama won, Reid became his greatest ally in the Senate, helping to shepherd key pieces of legislation through the legislative body, including the sweeping health care law that came to be known as Obamacare.
“Here’s what I want you to know. You were a great leader in the Senate, and early on you were more generous to me than I had any right to expect,” Obama wrote in a letter he sent to Reid before the Democrat died. “I wouldn’t have been president had it not been for your encouragement and support, and I wouldn’t have got most of what I got done without your skill and determination.”
Obama added: “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 cared about the little guy. And you know what, we made for a pretty good team.”
Biden remembered Reid as someone who backed up his word with action in a statement after his death.
“During the two decades we served together in the United States Senate, and the eight years we worked together while I served as Vice President, Harry met the marker for what I’ve always believed is the most important thing by which you can measure a person—their action and their word,” Biden said.