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Name: Holder, Eric
Current Position: Former Attorney General

Eric H. Holder, Jr. was confirmed as Attorney General on February 2, 2009. Holder’s father, an immigrant from Barbados, sold real estate, and his mother worked as a secretary. Born in the Bronx in 1951, Holder grew up in East Elmhurst, a neighborhood in Queens. In the fourth grade he was selected to be part of a program for gifted children at a predominately Jewish school. He later received a scholarship to attend Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, an hour-and-a-half commute away. An American History major, Holder graduated from Columbia College in 1973 and earned his J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1976. While at Columbia, Holder took part in student protests, including a sit-in at the dean’s office. He is currently a Columbia trustee.

After graduation from law school, Holder landed a job at the Justice Department’s newly-created Public Integrity Section, where he prosecuted such targets as a corrupt judge in Philadelphia, the Treasurer of the state of Florida, the Ambassador from the Dominican Republic, FBI agents, organized crime members and Rep. John Jenrette (D-South Carolina) in the 1980 Abscam scandal. Holder stayed with Public Integrity for 12 years.
In 1988 President Reagan nominated Holder to be an Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. Three years later, Deputy U.S. Marshall Michael Artis told the Washington Post that Holder was “the coolest judge on the whole bench. He’s smooth….Call him silky.” Of his five years as associate judge, Holder himself said, “I presided over hundreds of criminal trials and witnessed the devastation that can be traced to two simple elements: illegal drugs and senseless violence. As a judge, I also saw how poverty, despair, and failure to take personal responsibility for one's life and one's family tended to intensify the negative conditions that too many of our fellow citizens, particularly our young people, must endure.”
On October 8, 1993, Holder was sworn in as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, the first African-American to hold the position. He was immediately given the high-profile case of corruption charges against Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Illinois). Rostenkowski was indicted and went to prison after pleading guilty to mail fraud. In addition to dealing with federal cases, the position of U.S. Attorney for D.C. also includes responsibility for local crimes in Washington, a city with an unusually high crime rate. Holder is credited with a creative innovation: making prosecutors responsible for a particular area in the city and urging them to meet with local police and church leaders and to attend community meetings.
In 1997, President Clinton nominated Holder to serve as Deputy Attorney General, the number two position in the Justice Department. The Senate approved his nomination 100-0, and he assumed office in July 1997. As the effective chief operating officer of the Justice Department, Holder dealt with enormous responsibilities, and it was Holder who advised Attorney General Janet Reno to expand the investigation into the Monica Lewinsky affair.
The biggest blot on Holder’s career happened at the very end of the Clinton presidency, when he was asked to help obtain a presidential pardon for Marc Rich, a commodities trader who had been a fugitive for 17 years after being indicted by U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani for tax evasion and illegal trading with Iran. On President Clinton’s final full day in office, Holder informed Clinton that his own opinion on the pardon was “neutral leaning towards favorable.” Clinton went ahead with the pardon. When it was revealed that Rich’s ex-wife had made large donations to the Clinton Presidential Library, Holder, on February 8, 2001, was sharply questioned by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
After George W. Bush took over the presidency, Holder went into private practice with the Washington, D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling. Among the clients he represented were the National Football League, including its investigation of Michael Vick for dogfighting; Merck, the pharmaceutical company, to negotiate a settlement with the U.S. government and five states for Medicaid fraud; and Chiquita Brands, for whom he negotiated a $25 million fine after it was proved that Chiquita officials had paid protection money to a Colombian group that was on the U.S. government list of terrorist organizations. Holder also served on the board of MCI prior to and during its merger with Verizon.
Holder met Barack Obama at a dinner party in Washington in 2004. In the spring of 2007, Obama called Holder and asked him to join his presidential campaign. Holder agreed immediately.
Holder has publically stated that he opposes capital punishment, but, as a representative of the U.S. government, he would enforce the death penalty when it is imposed.
Making History (by Andrew Longstreth, American Lawyer) (pdf)
The Feds’ Increasing Focus on the Pharmaceutical Industry (by Eric H. Holder, Jr. and Ethan M. Posner) (pdf)
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