WASHINGTON (CNN) - Eight years and three months after then-Attorney General Janet Reno hugged her Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder goodbye, now Attorney General Holder warmly embraced his former boss at ceremonies honoring Reno's career achievements.
With dozens of former Clinton administration officials and a sprinkling of career Justice Department veterans looking on, Holder heaped high praise on Reno for her famous tenacity and tireless work schedule during an often controversial eight-year tenure.
"Janet is both tough and tender," Holder told an audience at which the American Judicature Society presented Reno its annual "Justice Award."
"I don't know how many times she said to me, "What's the right thing to do'," Holder said. "It was never what's the easy thing, what's the political thing, or the expedient thing to do," he said
Holder drew knowing laughter as he recalled her alternate roles as demanding taskmaster to senior officials, while displaying great kindness to children and patience with lower-level employees and their families.
Reno, who was stricken with Parkinson's disease while she was attorney general, was noticeably weak and displayed the lingering affects of health issues she has battled in recent years.
In her brief remarks, Reno revisited one of her trademark messages of the 1990s, urging the development of crime prevention programs to curb violence.
Reno's friend Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center praised Reno as he ticked off a list of challenges Reno had faced - not always successfully and not without controversy. He recalled the fire at Waco, Texas, the Oklahoma City bombing, the standoff with the Montana Freemen, the Unabomber search, black church bombings, the first World Trade Center bombing and the snatching of the Cuban boy Elian Gonzales in Miami.
In closing Holder referred to the portrait of Reno hanging in his office, Holder said, "Rest assured, you are always near by."