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Janet Reno, first female US attorney general, dies at 78

Story highlights

  • Janet Reno was the first-ever state attorney in Florida before going to the Clinton White House
  • Reno’s time in office was also bookended with a pair of major controversies that gripped the country

(CNN)Janet Reno, former US attorney general under President Bill Clinton, died Monday morning following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, her sister Maggy Hurchalla said. She was 78.

Reno, the nation’s first-ever female attorney general, served in the Clinton White House from 1993 to 2001.

From Miami to Washington D.C.

Born in 1938, Reno grew up in Miami, Florida, with parents who both worked as reporters for Miami newspapers. After attending Cornell University for her undergraduate degree, Reno enrolled at Harvard University for law school in the early 1960s. During her first year, she heard one of her heroes, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, speak at the Sanders Theater.
“She was so wonderful and her voice was still so clear and so magnificent,” Reno later recalled in a 1993 speech to the Women’s Bar Association. “And I went up to her afterwards, and I said, “Mrs. Roosevelt, I think you are perfectly wonderful.” And I will never forget her looking at me and saying, ‘Why, thank you, my dear. Those words mean so much to me.’ And she seemed to mean it.”
Reno was the first female attorney general.

After law school, Reno worked for four years as an associate at Brigham & Brigham, before becoming partner at Lewis & Reno, where she stayed for four years. In 1971, Reno decided to work with the Florida House of Representatives as a staff director.
After a brief return to the private sector, she was appointed as Florida’s State Attorney in Miami, becoming the first woman to ever hold that position. Reno stayed in the job for about 15 years until Clinton tapped her to become the 78th US attorney general.

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