Janet Reno, America’s First Female Attorney General, Has Died At 78 [Video]

The iconic Janet Reno, America’s first female Attorney General, has passed away early Monday morning at the age of 78. Janet Reno served her post for a almost eight years during the presidency of Bill Clinton, making her the longest-serving U.S. Attorney General in 100 years, and like President Clinton’s Time in the Oval Office, Janet Reno’s tenure as Attorney General was fraught with political strife.

As the New York Post reports, former Attorney General Janet Reno tragically suffered from Parkinson’s disease since 1995, and her death has been attributed to complications from the devastating degenerative illness. According to Reno’s goddaughter Gabrielle D’Alemberte, Janet passed away in Miami at her home. She reportedly spent her final days and moments surrounding by the loving presence of friends and family members.

Before her term as Attorney General under President Bill Clinton, Janet Reno was a famed prosecutor in her home town of Miami from 1978 to 1993. She was famous for her blunt manner of speaking, and one of her most famous quotes to the media was “I don’t do spin.” At six feet tall and famous for always sporting her trademark eyeglasses, Janet Reno was also unmistakable on the world political stage.

Among the turbulent scandals that Janet Reno faced during her time as Bill Clinton’s Attorney General was the ultimately tragic situation that unfolded in Waco, Texas, in 1993. The politically disastrous incident took place during Janet Reno’s early days as Attorney General, and her involvement in the situation involving the Branch Davidian cult and their leader David Koresh marred the rest of Janet Reno’s life and career.

Initial government reports regarding the siege of Waco, a siege Janet Reno participated in politically, indicated that the Branch Davidians committed suicide at their Waco compound en masse, shooting themselves and setting the place on fire. Later, survivors of the incident claimed that the official government reports were lies. Rather, the Branch Davidians told the public that the government had started the fire with their use of tear gas. Tear gas that Janet Reno authorized. The Davidians further contended that government agents shot many who attempted to flee David Koresh’s compound.

The Waco incident resulted in the fiery deaths of roughly 80 civilians, many of them children, largely at the hands of the federal government. Many have long placed the blame for those deaths on the shoulders of Janet Reno.

“It was a dangerous situation. The tragedy is that we will never know what was the right thing to do.”

Not surprisingly, Janet Reno’s death on the eve of a highly politicized and contentious election has brought out some ugly internet commentary to mar her family’s grief. Some even noted the tragedy of the nation’s first female Attorney General losing her battle the day before the first female U.S. president may be elected.

In addition to being an integral and controversial figure in the Waco crisis, Janet Reno was also involved in some of the most scandalous headlines of the 1990’s and the so-called “Clinton Years” of American politics. Some such scandals that touched Janet Reno’s name, career and legacy were the infamous Monica Lewinsky situation, reports of nuclear spying involving the Chinese, Whitewater and the Clinton-Gore campaign finance scandal of 1996.

Janet Reno was also integrally involved in the Elian Gonzalez scandal, which took place in 2000. Using her authority as Attorney General, Janet Reno allowed the 5-year-old Cuban-American to be removed from his relative’s custody in Miami by armed force. Gonzalez was then returned to his father’s custody in Cuba, with Janet Reno’s permission.

The fallout of that controversial scandal would also dog the remainder of Janet Reno’s life and career, particularly damaging her reputation in the Miami area. In fact, the Elian Gonzalez scandal could have been the undoing of Janet Reno’s career in politics altogether. Reno ran for Governor of Florida in 2002, after leaving her post as Attorney General. She lost the race in the primary and stayed out of politics from then on.

Despite being involved in some of the most controversial incidents in recent American history, former Attorney General Janet Reno kept her calm an aplomb, and frequently channeling President Truman’s “the buck stops with me,” quote.


Janet Reno’s early life was modest and humble. She was born July 21, 1938, and both of her parents were newspaper reporters. Janet Reno spent her childhood growing up near the Florida Everglades, and returned to her childhood home after her tenure as Attorney General came to an end.

As USA Today reports, Janet Reno was officially sworn in as the nation’s first female Attorney General on March 12, 1993. She held her post until Clinton left office in 2001. She was a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Law School.

Since news of her death broke, condolences for Janet Reno have been rolling in across social media.

As the news of the death of Janet Reno is just breaking, there is not yet any information regarding funeral or other final arrangements.

[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]