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Janet Reno, First Woman Attorney General, Dead at 78

Janet Reno poses in front of a US flag

Janet Reno, the plainspoken Floridan who became the first female U.S. Attorney General in 1993, has died at age 78. Her family reported the cause as complications from Parkinson’s Disease.

What a terrific public servant Janet Reno was, before, during and after her stint as Attorney General. She was raised in Florida, earned a Chemistry degree from Cornell University in 1960, and then got her J.D. from Harvard Law in 1963. She was one of 15 women in a Harvard Law class of 500:

Dean Griswold told Reno and 15 other women in a class of over 500 men, “I don’t know what you are going to do with your Law School education.” Yet Griswold also offered support and encouragement to Reno over the years, she said. Reno acknowledged that attention shortly after becoming attorney general, when she spoke at an event that Griswold attended.

“I had told the story about what he had said, [that] he didn’t know what we were going to do with our Law School education,” Reno recalled, “and I said, ‘I hope I’ve answered your question, Dean.’”

Janet Reno was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1995, two years after she was appointed by President Bill Clinton. The disease made her hands shake, sometimes violently, but it didn’t stop her from staying with the job for the full eight years of Clinton’s administration.

In fact, let’s skip the rest of her resume. Just go read this 2001 article from the Harvard Law Bulletin that sums up her career and outlook brilliantly.

Then see our full Janet Reno biography »


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