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Janet Reno, the first female attorney general of the United States, has died of complications from Parkinson’s disease, relatives told the AP and CNN.
She was 78.
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Reno became attorney general under President Bill Clinton in 1993. She ran the Justice Department during some of the administration’s most prominent controversies, including the raid of a Waco, Texas, cult compound that left over 80 people dead and the decision to return 6-year-old Elián González to his father in Cuba. Reno was also caught in the crosshairs of many of Clinton’s personal legal troubles.
But Reno’s career wasn’t only defined by scandal. The longest-serving attorney general of the 20th century, she was a staunch advocate for women’s rights and pushed Congress to pass stronger laws protecting abortion seekers and providers.
“I think we should do everything we can under federal law to protect a woman’s right to choose from physical restraints that people would try to place on it,” Reno told CNN at the beginning of her DOJ tenure.
She also oversaw the capture and conviction of some of America’s most notorious criminals, including Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh, the man behind the Oklahoma City bombing.
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Reno was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1995. Despite her illness, she ran for governor of Florida in 2002 as a Democrat, campaigning in a pickup truck years before former Republican Sen. Scott Brown ever did. Though she lost, the primary race was noted for being “kind of a lovefest.”
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“Outspoken, outrageous, absolutely indifferent to others’ opinions,” Paul Anderson wrote in his biography, Janet Reno: Doing The Right Thing. “Janet Reno was truly one of a kind.”
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