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FILE - In this Tuesday, March 9, 1993, file photo, U.S. Attorney General-designate Janet Reno is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Barry Thumma, File)

Janet Reno, the first female US attorney general, died after long battle with Parkinson's

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Janet Reno, the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney general, died early Monday at the age of 78 from complications of Parkinson's disease.

Reno was at the center of several political storms during Bill Clinton's presidency and was one of his administration's most recognizable and polarizing figures. 

She faced criticism early in her tenure for her decisions during the deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, where sect leader David Koresh and some 80 followers perished in a fire.

Controversies marked her tenure

Reno also played a part in other controversies that marked the Clinton administration, including Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky and questionable campaign financing during the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election. 

In the spring of 2000, Reno enraged the Cuban-American community of her Miami hometown when she authorized the armed seizure of 5-year-old Elian Gonzalez. The boy was taken from the Little Havana home of his Miami relatives so he could be returned to his father in Cuba.

History was not kind to her over the Waco incident.

I didn't want people to tell me what to do.
Reno, on why she wanted to be a lawyer

In 1993, Clinton tapped Reno to become the first woman to lead the Justice Department when his first two choices --  also women -- withdrew from consideration after it was revealed they both had hired illegal immigrants as nannies. Reno was 54 at the time.

As a prosecutor in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, she survived a political challenge in 1980 after an all-white jury acquitted five police officers for the beating death of a black insurance salesman. 

Eighteen people were killed in a riot after the verdict was reached. Crowds chanted Reno's name, accusing her of being a racist and demanding her resignation. Reno refused.

After serving as U.S. attorney general, she ran for Florida governor in 2002, but lost in the Democratic primary.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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