Eric Himpton Holder, Jr. was the first African American Attorney General of the United States. He was born on January 2, 1951, to Eric and Miriam Holder in New York City. Eric and Miriam had both migrated from Barbados. Eric worked as a real estate agent and Miriam worked as a telephone operator. Holder initially attended a public school in Queens, but later got selected to attend a school for intellectually advanced children. This was mainly a white majority school, which was very different from what Holder had been used to. He then qualified to attend an elite private school called Stuyvesant High School, which was an hour and a half away from his neighborhood in Queens.
Not only was Holder academically gifted, he was also an active sportsman, serving as the captain of the basketball team at school. He graduated from high school in 1969, after which he received a Regents Scholarship. He chose to attend Columbia University. He was very active in college, where he played basketball, was interested in theatre and drama, and also coached youth programs. He graduated from Columbia in 1973 with a degree in American History, and then attended Columbia Law School. During law school, Holder also served as a clerk at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defense Fund, as well as the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. He graduated from Columbia Law School in 1976.
As part of the Honors program, Eric Holder was offered a job at the attorney general’s office. He was placed in the Public Integrity Section, which was a division set up to prosecute criminal activity at official levels. In 1988, he was nominated to be an associate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by then U.S. President Ronald Reagan. He tried hundreds of criminal and civil cases in that capacity. In 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated him for the post of U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C., making him the first African American to hold that position. In that capacity, he worked to reduce domestic violence incidents by setting up a unit to control it and restricted gun possession laws.
In 1997, President Clinton nominated him to be the Deputy Attorney General, and he was confirmed by a vote in the Senate. Not only was he the first to hold the position, but also the highest ranking law enforcement African American official in the U.S. at that time. He developed the “Holder Memorandum” during his time in office, which was used for criminal prosecution of corporations. He also created a group called “Lawyers for One America” which aimed to enhance cultural diversity in the law profession. He briefly served as the Acting Attorney General under President Bush, after which he returned to private practice with a law firm called Covington and Burling LLC.
In 2007, Holder joined the Presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama, serving as his senior legal advisor, as well as being a member of his vice presidential committee. In 2009, he was appointed as the Attorney General of the United States, making him the first African American in history to hold that rank. He worked against racial discrimination, sale of arms as well as drug trafficking. He was the presiding judge in the case of an incident involving a young African American man shot by a police officer named Darren Wilson. After investigating the incident, Holder ruled in the Wilson’s favor, although it later became apparent that the officer in question was frequently known to use violence, especially in incidents involving African Americans. Eric Hodler retired from his post in 2015, and was succeeded by Loretta Lynch. He is married to a doctor and has three children.