The blunt-spoken Reno authorized the deadly 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian cult compound at Waco, Texas just weeks into the job in 1993.
She later authorized the 2000 seizure by federal agents of six-year-old Cuban shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez from relatives in Miami, as well as the government's huge antitrust case against Microsoft in 1998.
The former Miami prosecutor, who was picked by Clinton only after his first two choices for the job ran into trouble, exhibited an independent streak and a brusque manner that often upset the White House.
In 1995 Reno was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a progressive disorder of the central nervous system that caused trembling in her arms. "All it does is shake and you get used to it shaking after a while," she told a TV interviewer.
Reno was attorney general throughout Clinton's two terms as president and was in the job longer than anyone except William Wirt, who held it from November 1817 until March 1829.
After leaving Washington, Reno returned to Florida and ran for governor in 2002, but lost in the Democratic primary.
Reno was born on July 21, 1938, in Miami to parents who were newspaper reporters. She attended public schools in Miami and earned a chemistry degree at Cornell University in 1960.
She received her law degree from Harvard three years later and worked as a lawyer in Miami. (Reporting by Will Dunham and Chris Michaud; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
RELATED: Janet Reno through the years
Janet Reno through the years
Janet Reno through the years
Attorney General Janet Reno, shown in this 1993 file photo, disclosed Thursday, Nov. 16, 1995, that she has Parkinson's disease. She said it is not adversely affecting her work and that she will remain on thejob. Reno made clear she had no intention of resigning and said if Clinton wins a second term and ``if he wanted me back, this would be no reason not to do it.'' (AP Photo/FILE/Doug Mills)
U.S. President Bill Clinton names Janet Reno the nation's first female attorney general at a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 1993. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
Janet Reno, accompanied by Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, talks to reporters outside the White House in Washington Thursday, March 11, 1993 after a private meeting with President Clinton. On Thursday, the Senate voted, 98-0, to confirm Reno as attorney general, she will become the nationâs first female attorney general. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
Vice President Al Gore listens to testimony during a hearing of the presidentâs task force on health care reform in Washington on March 29, 1993. Attorney General Janet Reno listens, center. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
President Clinton gestures while talking to the members of the National Association of Police Officers at the White House in Washington Thursday, June 24, 1993. Speaking to the officers on the terrorists arrests in New York, the president called the efforts of law enforcement officials âa very impressive piece of work, a real tribute to the local folks and the co operation that the federal government and the local people hadâ. Attorney General Janet Reno is at left. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
U.S. President Bill Clinton sits with Attorney General Janet Reno is the Indian Treaty Room of the Old Executive Office Building in Washington, Thursday Dec. 9, 1993 during a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Task Force on Youth, Crime and Violence. The President addressed the group saying that violent crime is âchanging everyoneâs lives in ways that are quite destructive.â (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
President Bill Clinton talks with Attorney General Janet Reno at the Justice Department in Washington Monday, Dec. 19, 1994 after the swearing in ceremony of Hayward, California Police Chief Joe Brann as director of the Justice Departmentâs office of Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS). (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
Attorney General Janet Reno meets reporters at the Justice Department in Washington Thursday April 4, 1996 to discuss the arrest of suspected Unabomber Theodore John Kaczynski in Montana. Kaczynski, a former Berkeley math professor, was charged with possessing components of a bomb found in a search of his mountain cabin. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
Attorney General Janet Reno attends a news conference at the Housing Department in Washington Monday, March 24, 1997 to announce "Get Tough," a partnership between the Departments of Housing and Justice to crack down against private landlords in 50 cities who victimize tenants. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, right, is seen receiving her honors hood from Boston College president William P. Leahy, during Boston College's 121st Commencement ceremonies in Newton, Mass. Monday, May 19, 1997. Reno, who received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, also addressed the 3,300 graduating students. (AP Photo/Kuni)
United States Attorney Gen Janet Reno, center, and Colombia's First Lady Nohora Puyana, left, tour a camp for earthquake refugees in Armenia, in western Colombia, Wednesday, March 3, 1999. Reno arrived in Colombia for a two-day visit to discuss anti narcotic efforts and meet with law enforcement officials. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
In a news conference at the Justice Dept. in Washington, Monday, April 3, 2000, Attorney General Janet Reno congratulates Asst. Atty. Gen. for Antitrust Joel Klein, center, and Iowa Atty. Gen. Tom Miller, right, for their case against software giant Microsoft. A federal judge ruled that Microsoft had been oppressive in the marketplace and had committed antitrust violations. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
FILE--With her famed red pickup sitting in the background, Florida gubernatorial candidate and former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno speaks with reporters in the backyard of her home, Sept. 4, 2001, in Miami. Reno is to begin her long-planned, red-truck tour across Florida next Tuesday Feb. 26. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno talks to a group of art students, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2002, in Dania Beach, Fla. Reno, a candidate for Florida governor, plans to begin a 15-day tour through the state in her red pickup truck on Feb. 26. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno acknowledges the cheers of supporters after returning home in the Kendall neighborhood of Miami, Tuesday, March 12, 2002, after completing a two-week trip across Florida, part of her effort to become the Democratic candidate for governor in the state. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Democrat Janet Reno smiles as she listens to a question during a news conference at her campaign headquarters in Miami Lakes, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 12, 2002. Political newcomer Bill McBride claimed the Democratic gubernatorial nomination Thursday, but Reno refused to concede, citing possible problems with the counting of ballots in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)
Janet Reno hugs her niece Hunter Reno, arm visible, and Hunter's husband Peter Rabbino after conceding the primary election in Miami Lakes, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2002. Reno conceded the Democratic nomination for Florida governor to Bill McBride on Tuesday - a full week after the state's bungled primary - after final vote counts showed him narrowly defeating the former attorney general. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)
Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno is sworn in before the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks Tuesday, April 13, 2004, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno testifies before the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks Tuesday, April 13, 2004, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Charlie Dharapak)
Former U.S. attorney general, Janet Reno, is shown in New York on Sept. 20, 2007. (AP Photo/ Jim Cooper)
Former US attorney general Janet Reno arrives at the 47th annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles February 13, 2005. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith FG/SV