Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the Justice Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Eric Holder is resigning his post, the Justice Department announced Thursday. The United States attorney general will, however, remain in his post until a successor is in place.

Holder, the 82nd attorney general and the first African American to serve in the role, had previously announced his intent to resign after holding the post for six years. Those plans were finalized, the Justice Department said, in an hour-long conversation with President Obama at the White House over Labor Day weekend.

One of three cabinet members from Obama’s original team that is still in office, Holder leaves behind an indelible mark and an enduring legacy, political scientists say.

“I was very impressed by Eric Holder’s tenure as attorney general in general but specifically as it regards civil rights issues,” said Robert Smith, a professor of political science at San Francisco State University.

The political analyst said the Bush administration had left the Civil Rights Division “in shambles.” The functioning and importance of the division had been “downgraded,” funding was cut and the morale among its civil servants was low.

Holder came in and gave the division a “new sense of purpose.” The attorney general has tackled head-on issues related to voting rights and voting discrimination, sentencing fairness and over-incarceration. When violent protests erupted in Ferguson, Mo., over the death of an unarmed Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer, Holder traveled there and met with community stakeholders in an attempt to mitigate the situation. And, perhaps as a result of those conversations, the Justice Department is expected to impose new curbs on racial profiling in the context of federal law enforcement investigations in the coming weeks.

Some argue, however, that one of Holder’s most important roles was as a “lightning rod” and a mouthpiece for the President on matters of race.

Holder Resignation

“Office of the Attorney General” is displayed on exterior of the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. Eric Holder, who served as the public face of the Obama administration’s legal fight against terrorism and weighed in on issues of racial fairness, is resigning after six years on the job. He is the first black U.S. attorney general. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“On issues of race in particular, almost from the very beginning of the administration, and clearly with Obama’s knowledge and acquiescence, Holder spoke about these matters in a way the President might not have felt comfortable doing,” Smith said.

Perhaps, because of Holder’s outspokenness and liberal leanings on such matters, he has become a favorite target for Republicans.

“Republicans will try to make over Holder’s record,” Smith said.

And, a tough confirmation process for his successor, could keep Holder in a holding pattern for a while, even right up until the end of President Obama’s stint in the White House in the next two years, Smith said.

“He might be there a little longer than he expects,” the political analyst said. “If Obama wishes to appoint someone with the same kind of civil rights stature as Holder, he’ll have a hard time getting that person confirmed.”

Though he has no immediate plans after stepping down, Holder has expressed his interest in advancing some of the causes he has pursued while in office, such as mending broken ties between police and communities.

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO