Former U.S. Attorney General and Florida gubernatorial candidate Janet Reno died Monday morning at the age of 78. According to CNN, Reno’s sister Maggy Hurchalla confirmed the news — stating that her sibling’s passing came after a prolonged battle with Parkinson’s disease. Reno first rose to prominence during the 1990s when President Bill Clinton appointed her to become the government’s first female top legal adviser, a position she held from 1993 to 2001.
Her Parkinson’s diagnosis, which came during Reno’s tenure as attorney general, made headlines in 1995 when the public first became aware of it. However, as the New York Times notes — both then, and in their obituary — complications from the debilitating neurological disorder didn’t prevent Reno from satisfying her highly demanding job in the Clinton administration.
Perhaps the greatest proof of this are the many high-profile events Reno’s office oversaw, and sometimes prosecuted, while the stalwart Floridian served. From the televised raid on a cult’s compound in Waco, Texas (which resulted in the deaths of 86 people) to the seizure of Cuban refugee Elián González in Miami, the eight years Reno spearheaded the Justice Department were fraught with triumph and turbulence alike.
Especially since, per the NYT, her relationship with the president was often “strained”:
Ms. Reno was never part of the Clinton inner circle, even though she served in the Clinton cabinet for two terms, longer than any attorney general in the previous 150 years. She was a latecomer to the team, and her political and personal style clashed with the president’s, particularly as she sought to maintain some independence from the White House.
Nor was Reno’s association with the Clintons helped by her decision to allow what became known as the Whitewater investigation take place. Despite this, President Clinton appointed Reno to the post again during his second term, and she went on to become the longest-serving attorney general in American history.
She was also a popular subject of parody throughout the decade, especially on television programs like South Park and Saturday Night Live. Former SNL cast member Will Ferrell‘s impression of Reno appeared often in a segment called “Janet Reno’s Dance Party,” in which the attorney general danced with the show’s guests and — in Rudy Giuliani‘s case — sometimes boxed with them.