Janet Reno, who served as Attorney General under President Bill Clinton and was the first woman to do so, died in her Miami-Dade County home Monday due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease, the New York Times reports. She was 78.
Reno attended Harvard Law. She was nominated by Bill Clinton in 1993 and served in the position through the duration of his presidency. As NPR notes, “She was an unexpected pick” for attorney general: “She had no connections to Clinton or Washington. But Clinton wanted a woman, and Reno was a big-time prosecutor, holding the top prosecutor’s job in Miami-Dade County, a position she had been elected to four times over 15 years.”
As the Times writes, her career as AG began with the disastrous FBI raids in Waco, Texas (for which she publicly took responsibility) and ended with the seizure of Elián González, but she presided over many other significant events—the capture of those who perpetrated the Oklahoma City and 1993 World Trade Center bombings among them. And, of course, she was there for the impeachment of Bill Clinton. The Times:
Her relations with the president were further strained by her decision to let an independent inquiry into a failed Clinton land deal in Arkansas, the so-called Whitewater investigation, expand to encompass Mr. Clinton’s sexual relationship with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky, an episode that led to his impeachment.
Mr. Clinton and his allies thought that Ms. Reno was too quick to refer to special counsels in the Lewinsky matter and other cases of suspect administration behavior. The president let her dangle in the public eye for weeks before announcing in December 1996, after his resounding re-election, that she would remain for his second term.
Reno was pro-choice, and an active endorser of bills that supported woman’s right to an abortion; she was vocal about investigating the perpetrators of violence against abortion clinics and doctors. In 1993, after a meeting with Planned Parenthood to discuss the attacks, a representative told the Times that she was “visibly upset.” After her tenure, she was outspoken against President George W. Bush’s antiterrorism policies that resulted in racial profiling post-9/11, and she served on the board of directors for the Innocence Project, which seeks to help exonerate the wrongly convicted.
Reno was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1995, and is survived by her sister, Margaret Hurchalla, and seven nieces and nephews.