WASHINGTON — President Biden and former President Barack Obama honored Harry M. Reid on Saturday as a loyal son of Nevada who rose to become a plain-spoken but pivotal leader in the Senate, where he steered landmark Democratic legislation while tolerating little vanity or praise.
“Harry cared so much about his fellow Americans and so little about what anybody thought of him,” Mr. Biden said at a memorial service for Mr. Reid, who died late last month at 82, at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas.
“He was all Searchlight, no spotlight,” the president added, referring to the mining outpost in Nevada where Mr. Reid grew up.
Along with the current and former president, the memorial service also included testimonials from other prominent Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, a sign of Mr. Reid’s influence on his party. Vice President Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman, as well as Jill Biden, the first lady, were also seated in the audience.
Each speaker, including Mr. Reid’s daughter and four sons, spoke of his passion for the Senate and love for his home state. His son Leif Reid noted that his father was such a fan of the Las Vegas-based band the Killers that he requested that its lead singer, Brandon Flowers, sing at his memorial service.
Before performing Nevada’s state song, “Home Means Nevada,” Mr. Flowers told the audience a story of visiting the Capitol and being directed by Mr. Reid to perform the song for Mr. Schumer.
Other speakers recounted tales of the tenacity of Mr. Reid, a former boxer, as he guided monumental Democratic victories through Congress, including a sweeping economic stimulus plan in response to the Great Recession, a new set of rules to rein in Wall Street and the most significant expansion of health care coverage since the Great Society of the 1960s.
“Let there be no doubt: Harry Reid will be considered one of the greatest Senate majority leaders in history,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Reid became the face of Senate Democrats after being elected by his colleagues as the minority leader in 2005, and then became majority leader in 2007 when Democrats took control of the chamber. He would take on all comers, Republican or Democrat, and was known for a blunt approach that occasionally got him in trouble.
Ms. Pelosi recalled Mr. Reid as a man of few words.
“And he wanted everybody else to be a person of few words,” she said.
Ms. Pelosi joined other speakers in describing Mr. Reid’s penchant for hanging up the telephone on his colleagues. He could not tolerate dragging out a conversation with a farewell. She described his modesty: He once shut down her attempt to celebrate his accomplishments by throwing him a dinner party for his retirement.
“I don’t want to do it,” Ms. Pelosi recalled Mr. Reid telling her. “Save the money. Feed the poor.”
Ms. Pelosi said she never heard Mr. Reid say “an unkind word about any of his Senate colleagues,” prompting a fact check from Mr. Obama.
“I don’t know about that, Nancy,” Mr. Obama said later as the audience broke out in laughter. “But he would work with…