Janet Reno, former US attorney general and the first woman to be nominated and confirmed as US attorney general, died this morning following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 78.

Janet Reno served in the Clinton White House from 1993 to 2001. Reno was born in Miami, Florida. Reno’s mother raised her children and then became an investigative reporter for the Miami News. Reno worked as an attorney for two Miami law firms from 1963 to 1971. In 1971, she joined the staff of the Judiciary Committee of the Florida House of Representatives.
Reno was appointed State Attorney for Dade County in 1978. She was elected to the Office of State Attorney in November 1978 and was returned to office by voters four more times.

In 1993, during President Bill Clinton’s administration, Reno was nominated and confirmed to serve as the United States Attorney General. Some of the Department of Justice actions that occurred during Reno’s tenure include:

  • The 51-day Waco siege standoff and resulting 76 deaths—the Branch Davidians—in Waco, Texas. 
  • Bringing suit against the software company Microsoft for violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
  • Capture and conviction of Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber.
  • Capture and conviction of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols for the Oklahoma City bombing.
  • Capture and conviction of those who conducted the World Trade Center bombing (resulting in life-sentences of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and four conspirators).
  • The armed seizure of six-year-old Elián González and his return to his father, who eventually took him home to Cuba; Elián’s mother and stepfather had died in a dangerous trip by sea, and though his U.S. relatives had lost custody to his father in court, local officials did not enforce the ruling. Reno made the decision to remove Elián González from the house of a relative.
At a ceremony to honor Reno in 2009, then-Attorney General Eric Holder praised his predecessor for her tenacity and tireless work ethic during her eight years in the job. “I don’t know how many times she said to me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?'” Holder said. “It was never what’s the easy thing, what’s the political thing, or the expedient thing to do.”
Reno died at her home in Miami. She had battled Parkinson’s disease for 20 years.