Janet Reno, the first woman attorney general of U.S. breathes her last

WASHINGTON, U.S. - America’s first woman Attorney General, Janet Reno, 78, breathed her last on Monday morning from complications related to Parkinson’s disease, her god-daughter ...


• Janet was America’s second longest serving Attorney General

• Her tenure faced a series of high-profile incidents including Oklahoma City bombing

• During her tenure, she was not endeared by either Democrats or Republicans for her no-nonsense attitude

WASHINGTON, U.S. - America’s first woman Attorney General, Janet Reno, 78, breathed her last on Monday morning from complications related to Parkinson’s disease, her god-daughter informed.   

Reno, whose tenure spanned some of the most volatile times in U.S. history, came to Washington in 1993 as newly elected President Bill Clinton’s third choice to lead the Justice Department. 

The prosecutor from Miami quickly became a target of critics of the administration for her hulking stature and reputation of being a tough prosecutor who wrestled with mobsters and drug dealers.

The second-longest serving attorney general in U.S. had an unending series of tests including a raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, investigation into the first World Trade Center attack, bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building and the international custody battle for a Cuban boy named Elian Gonzalez.

However, she not only tackled the obstacles on her way but had to deal with Parkinson’s disease during her eight-year tenure. 

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, said Reno served as “an inspiration and a trailblazer for so many women serving in law enforcement and government, including me.”

"The Department of Justice has lost one of the most effective, decisive, and well-respected leaders in its proud history. She led the department in a time of turmoil and change, confronting issues ranging from international and domestic terrorism to fair competition in the emerging technology sector. In meeting these challenges, she was guided by one simple test: to do what the law and the facts required. She accepted the results of that test regardless of which way the political winds were blowing. She never shied from criticism or shirked responsibility, earning her the affection of her subordinates, the respect of her critics, and the esteem of the American people,” Lynch said.

However, her 51-day-long standoff was the first misstep in her tenure as she stood by her decision to end cultist David Koresh's deadlock in Texas that claimed life of four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents. 

FBI’s raid on Branch Davidian compound led to Koresh’s ignition of a massive fire fuelled by an ammunition arsenal. The blaze left more than 80 followers dead, including 20 children.

Following the incident, people asked for her resignation which she offered claiming full responsibility, only to be rejected by Clinton.

“The fact that they are dead is a tragedy that will be with me for the rest of my life,” Reno testified in 1995.

This was followed by the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, then the deadliest domestic terrorist attack. 

The shocking bombing of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building claimed over 680 lives, plunging the country into probing an unseen threat from anti-government movement within the country.

She was not famous amongst the Democrats either as she appointed special prosecutors to probe aspects of the Clinton administration - the Whitewater real estate deal, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy and Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros. 

But her refusal to appoint an eighth special prosecutor, which was objected by the FBI, to look into campaign finance violations by Clinton and Vice President Al Gore in 1996 invited ire from the Republicans too, who demanded her resignation for politicising her office.

Frances Fragos Townsend, a Republican who worked in the Justice Department under Reno claimed that allegations relating to her politically polarised was a fiction created by her Republican opponents and media.

“They created this story around her. It was a caricature and inaccurate. It’s just not who she was. She was very down to earth and simple in the sense that what drove her was the facts,” Townsend said.

Born in 1938 in Miami, Reno was the oldest of four children to two newspaper journalists. 

She earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in 1960 before attending Harvard Law School’s 1963 class. 

She served as a prosecutor for Dade County, Florida, from 1978 to 1993 before moving to the capital.

 

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