Janet Reno, the first female U.S. attorney general, died at age 78

Following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, Janet Reno died Monday morning at the age of 78, her family announced. The first female U.S. attorney general served under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001, also making her the longest serving attorney general since 1829. Her sister, Margaret Hurchalla, said she died of complications of Parkison’s at her home in Miami-Dade County, Florida. She was diagnosed with the disease while attorney general in 1995.

Originally from Miami, Reno oversaw multiple high-profile convictions during her time as attorney general. The unibomber, Theodore Kaczynski, was captured and convicted under her leadership, along with Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols for their roles in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. “Speak out against the hatred, the bigotry and the violence in this land. Most haters are cowards. When confronted, they back down. When we remain silent, they flourish,” Reno said after the Oklahoma City bombing.

She was also in the middle of the scandals that plagued the Clinton administration and appointed the special prosecutor who led the investigation into the Whitewater scandal in 1994 (which ultimately found no wrongdoing by the Clintons).

After leaving office, she made an unexpected run for governor of Florida, but lost in the Democratic primary.

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CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former Attorney General Eric Holder honored Reno at a ceremony in 2009, according to CNN, saying, “I don’t know how many times she said to me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ It was never what’s the easy thing, what’s the political thing, or the expedient thing to do.”

Paul Anderson, a former Miami Herald reporter, wrote in his biography of her, “Outspoken, outrageous, absolutely indifferent to others’ opinions, Janet Reno was truly one of a kind.”