On Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. formally announced his resignation. Speaking about his decision at the White House, an emotional Holder said the job had been “the greatest honor of [his] professional life.” He intends to remain in the position until a successor is found.
After nearly six years in the post, Holder is one of the longest-serving members of the Obama cabinet and the fourth longest-tenured attorney general in history. Holder has long said he’d leave before the end of Obama’s second term, and officials say he’d been increasingly “adamant” about his decision of late. In February, he suffered a health scare that sent him to the hospital. The Washington Post claims that close friends of Holder’s said he “had been exhausted by his job at times and had earlier considered leaving several times, especially last summer and fall, when he was facing pillorying from Hill Republicans.”
The 63-year-old Holder made history when he was named the first black attorney general by Obama in 2008. He’s been lauded for many successes since, including his sweeping advances in civil rights and justice-system causes, such as striking down Southern voting restrictions that unfairly affected minorities; supporting gay marriage; lobbying Congress to take a softer stance on minor prison sentences; and promising understandably furious communities “a fair and thorough” investigation into the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO last month.
Parts of his tenure have also been stormy, and he’s frequently raised a (mostly Republican) hackle or three — see 2012’s ATF gunwalking debacle, in which Holder earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first sitting member of the Cabinet to be held in contempt of Congress. He also stirred things up in 2013 by writing a letter to Congress that publicly acknowledged four Americans who were killed by the U.S. during the government's classified attacks on terrorists.
But throughout, the measures he has enacted have had direct effects on women and minorities, and those effects have been largely positive. Here are five that stand out.