Janet Reno, first female U.S. attorney general, dies at 78

Janet Reno, the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney general, has died at age 78.

Her godddaugher, Gabrielle D’Alemberte, told the Associated Press that she died early Monday from complications related to Parkinson’s disease.

Reno was sworn in as the first female attorney general on March 12, 1993, under the administration of Bill Clinton. She served in the role until 2001.

“It’s an extraordinary experience, and I hope I do the women of America proud,” Reno said after she won confirmation. She was famed for telling reporters “I don’t do spin" and often told the public told the public “the buck stops with me.”

Born in 1938 in Miami, Reno gained a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in 1960 before attending Harvard Law School.

Reno, who stood at more than 6 feet tall, said she wanted to become a lawyer “because I didn’t want people to tell me what to do.”

She served as prosecutor for Dade County, Fla., from 1978 to 1993.

Reno was criticized early in her tenure for the deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas.

The standoff started before Reno was confirmed as attorney general — on Feb. 28, 1993, agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms made a surprise raid on the compound, trying to execute a search warrant, but gunfire erupted, killing four agents and six members of the religious sect.

It led to a 51-day standoff that ended April 19, 1993, when the complex burned down. The government claimed the Davidians committed suicide, shooting themselves and starting the fire. Survivors said the blaze was started by tear gas rounds fired into the compound by government tanks, and that agents shot at some who tried to flee. Reno had authorized the use of the tear gas to end the standoff and later called the day the worst of her life.

“It was a dangerous situation,” Reno said of the incident during a lecture at Duke University in 2005. “The tragedy is that we will never know what was the right thing to do.”

In 2000, she enraged Miami’s Cuban-American community by authorizing the armed seizure of 5-year-old Elian Gonzalez from the home of his relatives so he could be returned to Cuba with his father.

She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1995 after noticing a trembling in her left hand. Reno unsuccessfully ran for Florida governor in 2002.

Contributing: Associated Press


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