As the first Black Attorney-general, Holder took his place as the nation’s top law enforcement officer and the head of the Department of Justice in the Obama administration.
Pledging to protect the civil rights of all Americans and to adhere to the Constitution, Eric Holder, with his wife and President Barack Obama in attendance, was sworn in as the 82nd attorney general of the United States. He had been confirmed by the Senate over a month ago and had been the official attorney general since February 3, but last Friday, his public swearing-in ceremony took place at Georgetown University where was previously a member of the board of trustees.
Emphasizing the importance of civil rights protection in the Justice Department, Holder said, “We will protect the civil rights of our fellow citizens–all of our fellow citizens–in the workplace, in the housing market, in the educational institutions and in the voting booths as well as their day-to-day lives.
And while referring to America’s past history of racial segregation and discrimination within the legal system, President Obama added that sometimes “law lags behind justice and it’s up to us to bridge that distance.”
Holder has had a long experience within the legal community and specifically in the justice department of the Clinton administration. As a licensed attorney, he was a judge, United States Attorney, deputy attorney general and acting attorney-general of the United States. During the Obama presidential campaign, he was the senior legal advisor to then Senator Barack Obama and one of the members of the vice-presidential selection committee.
After graduating from Columbia Law School in 1976, he spent two brief stints at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and then at the U.S. Attorney’s office. From there, Holder moved to the U.S. Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section where he stayed for 12 years until President Ronald Reagan appointed him as a judge of the District of Columbia superior court.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed him as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia followed by an elevation to the Deputy Attorney General in 1997. Holder was involved with a controversial last-minute pardon in the Clinton administration that followed him and nearly derailed his confirmation presently as Attorney General.
Prior to becoming attorney general, Holder was in private practice at one of D.C.’s prestigious law firms, Covington & Burling where he handled several high-profile cases including the Chiquita Brands International matter in Columbia and an Illinois Gaming Board issue concerning disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich.
In one of his finer moments, Holder delivered a speech at the Justice Department’s Black history month program where he said, in part, “One cannot truly understand America without understanding the historical experience of Black people in this nation. Simply put, to get to the heart of this country, one must examine its racial soul. Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.” Coming from the U.S. Attorney General, that was a breath of fresh air.
Born in the Bronx, New York, Holder is married and has three children.