SEEN UP NORTH: Holder ‘one of the great AGs’
Almost two months have passed since Eric Holder, the American with Bajan ancestry who made history in 2009 by becoming the first black person to serve as United States attorney general, surprised the country by stepping down.
And when President Barack Obama selected Loretta Lynch, a black woman from America’s south a week ago to succeed Holder, the move raised a key question to a higher level: what is Holder’s legacy?
The answer is important because it offers a template to Lynch’s priorities after she becomes the first black woman to head the US Justice Department.
Interestingly, Holder, whose name adorns a judicial complex at the top of Horse Hill in St Joseph in Barbados, is believed to have strongly recommended Lynch to President Obama, his close friend for decades.
It was Lynch’s skills as a federal prosecutor, her skill, integrity, independence and impeccable character that recommended her to Holder and the president.
Andrew Young, who shares a page with Holder in American history by being the first person of colour to break a major barrier that had prevented Blacks from occupying a specific cabinet position, in this case the permanent representative to the United Nations, believes Holder’s legacy is secure.
“He is a wonderful, brilliant young man who really won more battles than anybody could have expected, given the system in the federal courts in which he had to work,” said Young, who for many years was a close aide to the late Dr Martin Luther King Jr during the height of the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s.
“If there had been a Thurgood Marshall on the court instead of Justice Clarence Thomas, Holder would have gone down in history as one of our greatest attorneys general. Indeed, he still will go down as one of our greatest attorneys general.
“He did a very good job in a very difficult situation and I hate to see him go,” Young told the Sunday Sun in an interview in the Bahamas where he participated in the 19th annual Caribbean Multinational Business Conference.
“I was hoping that his going – if we [Democrats] had kept the majority in the US Senate, Holder would be on the US Supreme Court. I thought that may have been the reason he was going,” he added.
“Eric Holder was very good for civil rights in the country. You should remember that Holder’s wife’s sister integrated the University of Alabama” at a time when Blacks were barred in the 1960s from attending the prominent tertiary level educational institution in America’s South,” said Young, who served in the House of Representatives and had two terms as mayor of Atlanta.
“Eric Holder and his wife were the only ones in the Obama Administration who knew anything about the southern struggle for civil rights.”
That may explain why Holder carried on the battle for the protection of and respect for the civil rights of all Americans and it was in that sphere that he made his greatest contribution, said Young, a Baptist minister and an internationally known public figure who has visited Barbados and most of its neighbours as well many African states.
“Absolutely, Holder was extremely good for civil rights,” he added.
Another prominent civil rights advocate, the Rev. Dr Ben Chavis, also hailed Holder as a “brilliant” person whose place should be on the Supreme Court.
“It is not far-fetched that Holder could eventually become a justice of the Supreme Court,” said Chavis, the president and chief executive officer of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and a former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured people.