Nation’s First Black Attorney General Will Step Down

Eric Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, is stepping down, NPR reported on Thursday.

The decision was finalized after long talks with President Barack Obama over Labor Day weekend and comes just weeks after Holder’s appearance in Ferguson, Mo., where he visited the community rattled by the recent shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

His tenure as attorney general, the fourth longest in history, is marked by both progress and controversy. Holder became well aware of the viciously political nature of the job when he tried to charge the 9/11 plotters in a criminal trial in a New York courtroom. Backlash from Congress and victims’ families ensued. Guantánamo Bay, the now-infamous U.S. military prison tainted by human rights abuses like torture and the failure to offer due process to detainees, remains open.

But Holder is hailed by many for the civil rights advances made during his post—especially after President Obama’s 2012 reelection. Holder’s team challenged contentious voter ID laws in Texas and North Carolina, urged federal courts to reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, and recently announced a civil rights investigation into the Ferguson, Mo. Police Department.

He will remain in charge of the Justice Department until a successor is confirmed by the Senate.