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Holder, Eric H. (1951- )

Eric H. Holder, Jr., U.S. Attorney General since 2009, was born on January 21, 1951 in the Bronx, New York to parents of Barbadian descent, Eric, a real estate agent and Miriam Holder, a telephone operator.  Holder was raised in East Elmhurst, Queens, a community which included a number of famous African Americans such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Harry Belafonte, and Sidney Poitier. Civil rights activist Malcolm X lived two blocks from young Holder and on one occasion in 1964, then recently crowned heavy weight champion Muhammad Ali entertained him and other community children on the steps of the Malcolm’s house. 

Holder graduated from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War protests and Black Power movement, he entered Columbia University where he participated in sit-ins by African American students. Holder also played collegiate basketball and became co-captain of his team.  In 1973, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in U.S. history from Columbia and then entered Columbia University Law School, earning a J.D. in 1976.  While in law school Holder served as a law clerk for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund (NAACP-LDF).   

In 1976, upon completing his law degree Holder joined the United States Department of Justice’s newly established Public Integrity Section, prosecuting misconduct by government officials. While there he participated in the prosecution of South Carolina Democratic Congressman John Jenrette for bribery. During the 1970s, Holder also developed a professional relationship with other rising black Washington D.C. attorneys such as Valarie Jarrett, Alexis Herman, and Charles Ogletree.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan named Holder an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia where he presided over civil and criminal trials.  Holder resigned from his judgeship in 1993 to accept President Bill Clinton’s appointment as U.S. Attorney for the District

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