We’ve all seen the waves Attorney General Eric Holder has made over the years.  As head of the Department of Justice, he has gained public notoriety for his extreme dealings with everything from the Black Panther case to suing the state of Arizona.

A National Review article introduced America to Holder in November 2008, calling him a “conventional, check-the-boxes creature of the Left.”  The NRO editorial said: 

“He (Holder) is convinced justice in America needs to be ‘established’ rather than enforced; he’s excited about hate crimes and enthusiastic about the constitutionally dubious Violence Against Women Act; he’s a supporter of affirmative action and a practitioner of the statistical voodoo that makes it possible to burden police departments with accusations of racial profiling and the states with charges of racially skewed death-penalty enforcement; he’s more likely to be animated by a touchy-feely Reno-esque agenda than traditional enforcement against crimes; he’s in favor of ending the detentions of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay and favors income redistribution to address the supposed root causes of crime.”

So who exactly is Eric Holder?  Where did he come from, what is his background?  I thought learning about his past might help us understand what his plans might be for our future.

Eric Himpton Holder, Jr. was born in The Bronx, New York on January 21, 1951.  His parents, Miriam and Eric, emigrated from Barbados to America, where Miriam worked as a telephone operator and Eric was a real estate broker.

Eric, Jr. and his two younger brothers went to a predominantly white public school in Queens which Holder says forced him to keep his “foot in both worlds”.  After high school he went WAY over to the Left and attended Columbia University where he became active in civil rights.  (Obama also got his undergraduate degree from Columbia 10 years after Holder but they didn’t meet until 2004.)

At Columbia, Holder met his wife, Dr. Sharon Malone, who was attending Columbia Medical School after graduating from Harvard in 1981.  (Dr. Malone’s sister was civil rights activist Vivian Malone Jones, famous for her part in the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door which led to integration at the University of Alabama.)

He received his bachelor’s in American history in 1973 and then attended Columbia Law School (while clerking for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division).  Holder graduated law school in ’76 and soon after got a job with the Department of Justice in the ‘Attorney General’s Honors Program’.

The first U.S. president to take notice of Holder was actually President Reagan in 1988, when he nominated Eric to become an associate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (presiding over civil and criminal trials).

Clinton years:  Controversy Begins

Holder’s next job was working for the Clinton administration where he served as the first black U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C (under Janet Reno).  At the urging of Clinton, Holder created Lawyers for One America—a group for bringing “greater diversity to the law profession and increase pro bono work among the nations lawyers.”

Eric’s first major political controversy occurred when he and President Clinton gave last-minute pardons to some very unseemly people—including Weather Underground terrorists Susan Rosenberg and Linda Evans.  Rosenberg and Evans were friends of co-terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn and had been in jail for bombing American government facilities.

But for some reason, releasing terrorists took a backseat to the pardon of “fugitive financier” Marc Rich.

Marc, who had been wanted for extensive fraud, racketeering, and trading-with-the-enemy charges, was allegedly pardoned because his wife Denise’s generous donations to the Clintons.  Denise was a major donor to both Bill and Hillary’s legal-defense funds and also gave lots of cash to the Clinton library.

The last-minute pardon of Rich prompted Congressional investigation hearings, which concluded with House Government Reform Committee chairman Dan Burton saying that Holder had “played a significant role in facilitating the Rich pardon”.

After the hearings, Holder said “I’m done.  Public life’s over for me.  I had a moment in time.  That moment has passed.”

But his public life wasn’t over, and when President Bush took office Holder briefly served as Acting Attorney General until the confirmation of John Ashcroft.

Once Ashcroft took over in 2001, Eric went back to the private sector at a law firm where he represented clients like the National Football League (during the Michael Vick dog fighting investigation) and Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.  Holder’s firm also represented Guantanamo inmates (although Holder “never participated directly” in the firm’s work) and the Swiss bank UBS AG (which he later recused himself from all legal matters when the U.S. government accused them of tax fraud.)

Obama Years & “Nation of Cowards”

In 2007 Holder began working with then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign as a senior legal advisor.  He later again made history by becoming the first black Attorney General under the first black president.

Holder’s first bit of hot water occurred when giving a 2009 speech during Black History Month, calling the United States a “nation of cowards”.

“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”, he said.  “Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we average Americans simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”

In a strange twist of “pot calling the kettle black,” even Obama thought Holder had overstepped his liberal boundaries.

“I think it’s fair to say that if I had been advising my attorney general, we would have used different language,” Obama said.

In Part 2, I’ll go further into the work Eric Holder has done during the Obama years.  While maybe not as charismatic or outspoken as some members of the president’s staff, Holder silently keeps pushing that envelope and does so largely unnoticed.