The nation’s first African-American attorney general, Eric Holder, announced Thursday his resignation from the position after being on the job for the last six years. Holder was appointed to the position by President Obama and has served as the administration’s public voice on a lot of important issues that have been tackled by Obama during his time in office.
“In the months ahead I will leave the Department of Justice,” Holder said at the White House, thanking President Barack Obama for the “greatest honor of my professional life.”
Holder added, “I’m confident we’re in a good place. Now was a good time to go [with] those accomplishments in the last few years in place.”
Obama later announced Holder’s resignation himself. Holder will remain on the job until Obama can appoint a successor, which may prove to be time-consuming during mid-term elections.
Holder has been a controversial figure within the administration due to the amount of large decisions the Justice Department has weighed in on during his tenure. Republicans in congress have been particularly aggressive in targeting Holder by holding votes against him on Contempt of Congress regarding his involvement in the notorious “Operation Fast and Furious” scandal. In 2013, Republican law makers introduced an Articles of Impeachment resolution against Holder as well.
Despite the opposition and controversy, Holder has been a legal stalwart for the Obama administration’s agenda on civil rights and LGBT issues and has made significant progress.
Holder was a vocal civil rights advocate for years dating back to his days at Columbia University. He attended sit-ins at school and has spoken personally about his experiences as an African-American growing up during the civil rights era. During his tenure in office, Holder has advanced changes to create greater equality in the criminal justice system. He has lessened sentence for low level crimes, nonviolent drug crimes in an effort to keep more people out of spending long periods of time in prison. Earlier this week, Holder announced that the federal prison population has decreased for this first time since 1980.
Holder has been vocal proponent of comprehensive immigration reform and has been personally involved in the high profile Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri.
In 2011, Holder recommended to the President that the Department of Justice should no longer defend cases regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). His view was that was law unconstitutional and that it violates the Constitution’s requirement of equal treatment. This became an important step in DOMA later being ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Holder has also advocated for the rights and protections of same-sex couples where one of the partners was not a U.S. citizen.
Holder has cited personal reasons for the resignation at this time. It is expected Obama will begin the search for a new attorney general as soon as possible.