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Janet Reno, first female US attorney general, dies

Former US Attorney General Janet Reno passed away early Monday at the age of 78. According to her family, she succumbed to complications from Parkinson's disease.

"I don't do spin," the no-nonsense Reno famously said. She worked nearly eight years under President Bill Clinton, making her the second-longest serving attorney general in history. Born on July 21, 1938, Reno grew up in Florida as the daughter of two newspaper reporters.  In 1963, she became one of only 16 women to graduate from Harvard Law School. She was a Florida state attorney for Miami-Dade County for over a decade before being tapped by Clinton.

"It's an extraordinary experience, and I hope I do the women of America proud," Reno said after her nomination was confirmed by Congress.

Controversial legacy

Reno was one of the most polarizing figures of the Clinton administration. While the Justice Department successfully captured

Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski and Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols during her tenure, she also oversaw a number of highly controversial actions such as an armed stand-off with the Branch Davidians religious sect in Waco, Texas, resulting in 76 deaths, and the detention of the six-year-old Elian Gonzalez, an illegal immigrant from Cuba.

"I didn't want people to tell me what to do," Reno once responded when asked why she became a lawyer, and during her time in the Justice Department she became known for her blunt talk and deliberate way of speaking.

Reno was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1995, while still in office.  Her post-White House career saw an unsuccessful run for Florida governor in 2002, before she joined the New York-based Innocence Project, which fights to gain freedom for the wrongfully convicted.

es/kms (AP, Reuters)