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Eric Holder: From East Elmurst to the White House

Eric Himpton Holder is the 82nd attorney general of the United States and the first African American to hold the post.

Holder grew up in the East Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens and is a graduate of Columbia University Law School. He has served in six presidential administrations, including his 2008 selection by President Barack Obama to head the Department of Justice. During his term, Attorney General Holder has often courted controversy for his stance on such issues as race, individual liberties and prosecution of law-breaking corporations.

He resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife Dr. Sharon Malone and their three children. The distinguished attorney is also the uncle of retired NBA star Jeff Malone.

Born in the Bronx on January 21, 1951 to parents of Barbadian extraction, Eric Holder was recognized from an early age for his keen intellect and academic ability. After graduating from the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in 1969, he went on to spend the next seven years at Columbia, finishing law school in 1976. During his time at the Ivy League institution, the young man from Queens played on the freshman basketball team and spent a summer studying law working for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The future attorney general began his long climb through the ranks of the Justice Department immediately following graduation. He spent his early years in the Department’s Public Integrity Section, where he assisted in prosecuting corrupt politicians caught in the Abscam sting operation. The lifelong Democrat has also proudly served in Republican administrations, notably in 1988 earning an appointment from President Ronald Reagan as a judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

A pioneering African-American jurist, in 1993 Holder became the first black U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia under President Bill Clinton. During his tenure, he led the successful prosecution against veteran Chicago politician Dan Rostenkowski for his role in the far-reaching Congressional Post Office scandal. The hard-charging attorney was rewarded for his efforts with his elevation to Deputy Attorney General in 1997.

Following the 2000 presidential election, Holder briefly served as acting attorney general under President George W. Bush before the Senate confirmation of John Ashcroft, and then went into private practice for a Washington, D.C. firm. Among other high profile cases, the accomplished lawyer represented the NFL in its dog fighting investigation against Michael Vick.

After serving as legal adviser to Obama during his first Presidential bid, the president nominated the Queens native to the post of attorney general of the United States in December 2008. The president praised him as “deeply familiar with the law enforcement challenges we face: from terrorism to counter-intelligence; from white-collar crime to public corruption.”

Holder’s tenure as the nation’s top law enforcement official has been characterized by support of drone and special forces strikes in the war on terror, ardent defense of voter and immigrant rights and the strengthening of local police forces.

His time in office also has been marked by controversy, however, with critics seeing his defense of civil rights as potentially racially divisive, and advocates of civil liberties have criticized a 2013 Justice Department investigation of news reporter telephone and email records as an unprecedented intrusion into the confidentiality of news sources.

Already the fourth longest serving U.S. attorney general in the nation’s history, Eric Holder announced his decision to step down in September 2014 following confirmation of a successor.

Notable Quote: “The American people can be — and deserve to be — assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws.”

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