Janet Reno, the United States’ first female attorney general, died earlier today after a battle with Parkinson’s disease. We’ve already touched on the impact that Reno had on popular culture, but her mark actually extended beyond a recurring Will Ferrell character on Saturday Night Live. To illustrate that, 2 Live Crew’s Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell has posted a tribute to Reno on his website (via CNN) that highlights the positive influence she had on Miami’s black community. “She always stood up for us when no one else would,” he says in the post.
Campbell’s tribute primarily involves the controversy that popped up in the early ’90s over 2 Life Crew’s As Nasty As They Wanna Be album, which came under fire from stereotypically stuffy politicians over the fact that its lyrics acknowledged the existence of sex. However, Reno stepped forward and chose to help 2 Life Crew defend its rights, with Campbell explaining that she “defended our first amendment right to be as nasty as we wanted to be.” In the years after that, Reno donated to a youth program started by Campbell and he repaid the favors she had done by writing and producing the song “Janet Reno” by Anquette. Campbell’s full statement is below.
The news Janet Reno passed away early Monday has left many black Miamians, including myself, saddened by her death. She meant so much to the African American community. She always stood up for us when no else would.
At the height of my fame, Reno was the only state prosecutor who didn’t come after 2 Live Crew for singing explicit lyrics when every law enforcement official in the state wanted to throw our asses in jail. In fact, she defended our first amendment right to be as nasty as we wanted to be. When I formed the Liberty City Optimist Club, Reno was the first person to make a donation to the youth program.
In 1989, I wrote and produced a song about Reno going after deadbeat dads. Performed by cousin and her rap group Anquette, “Janet Reno” was a big hit with single black moms from Overtown to Opa-Locka. Black dads knew if they didn’t pay their child support, Reno would throw them in jail. And she had zero tolerance for indiscriminate killing. If you murdered an innocent person, you were getting life in prison. Reno knew how to deal with the problems in the African American community.
As a result, she was the only white lady who commanded the full respect of black Miami. At the annual Martin Luther King Jr. parades, Reno would get more cheers than the Miami Northwestern marching band. She didn’t need politicians and pastors to endorse her.
People may have disagreed with her, but they respected her. As Miami-Dade County State Attorney and the first woman U.S. Attorney General, Reno handled her high profile jobs with professionalism. She never allowed politics to dictate her decisions.
Reno was a true Florida icon.