By: Tony Best
Eric Holder, Jr. will not be on Eastern Parkway on Monday to march with federal, state and city officials in the West Indian carnival in Brooklyn.
But if you meet him simply ask the U.S. Attorney- General about the wisdom and strength of his Caribbean parents and his answers would warm the cockles of anyone’s heart.
“I’m my father’s son,” Eric Holder, Jr. recently told Isabel Wilkerson, a Pulitzer-prize winning author. “He (Eric Holder Sr.) used to say you’re as good as anybody else. You don’t let anyone push you around.”
That bit of advice is coming in handy these days as Republicans in the House of Representatives resort to every Congressional tactic to drag the Caribbean-New Yorker into the snake-pit of Washington politics. Back in June, the Republicans used their power as the majority party to hold the Attorney-General in contempt of Congress for his Justice Department’s failure to hand over sensitive documents about a failed Bush Administration gun-tracking operation in Arizona. Holder argued that giving the House panel the papers would compromise ongoing investigations. It was the first time in U.S. history that the country’s Attorney had been held in contempt. But when the White House invoked executive privilege and blocked the Republicans from bringing Holder to trial, they cried foul. In an election year when the Justice Department is battling Republican efforts in federal courts to suppress the votes of millions of people of color across the country in order to give Mitt Romney more than a fighting chance to beat President Barack Obama, few expect them to give up without another strong fight. And Holder isn’t backing down.
That brings us to his mother, Miriam, who died in 2010.
“My mother thought that the sun rose and set on her son,” he told Wilkerson in an interview for Essence Magazine. “She would put her hand on my face and said, ‘you’re a good man. Don’t let this get you down.’ ”
In these trying political times, Holder, 61, the first Black person to serve as the nation’s top lawyer and administrator gets full support from his wife, Dr. Sharon Malone, a 53 year old prominent obstetrician and gynecologist in Washington D.C., and their children, Maya 19, Brooke, 17, and Eric 111, 14.
Holder and Dr. Malone have been married since 1990 and the AG’s mother told the Carib News in 2009 that her daughter-in-law was a “wonderful wife and a devoted mother to her children,” a person who was also committed to her patients and the community in which she works.
But what has angered Republicans has also endeared the Attorney-General to the poor and people of color. Since he assumed duties the Justice Department has initiated more federal civil rights cases involving racial and gender discrimination than ever before and is frequently in court battling Republican inspired campaigns to punish immigrants for being in the country illegally. It has also fought commercial banks to punish the financial institutions for engaging in widespread mortgage fraud that precipitated the housing crisis. Hate crimes, voter protection and the implementation of provisions of the controversial health care law pioneered by President Obama are all high on Holder’s legal radar screen.
“He’s the most well-rounded and accomplished person to serve in that office,” said Harvard University law professor Dr. Charles Ogletree, one of America’s leading legal experts. “He speaks for the outcasts, the voiceless and the powerless. He’s established himself as an ethical and inspiration figure. He doesn’t try to edit or understate his views about race or about crime or about national security. The fact that he’s so blunt and so clear and unequivocal makes him highly respected for what he does and in the long run, he will be seen as one of the successful and remarkable attorneys-general in the history of the nation.”
Like her husband, Dr. Malone, often attributes many of her outstanding admirable qualities to her parents.
“My mom and dad grew up on farms (in Alabama) in harsh circumstances but always had a healthy sense of themselves,” she said recently. “That’s the part that amazes me that you can grow up where everything negates your humanity and yet you’re able to keep intact and impart that to your children. The confidence to be who we are, it goes well beyond us. We’re the survivors of a 300-year legacy.
Reflecting on his father’s life, Holder said that although Eric, Sr. “was not the most educated guy who came to the U.S.” from Barbados when he was 11 years old “he was one of the smartest people I have ever known.”
Holder, Sr. passed on his strong determination to succeed to his two sons and taught them how to overcome obstacles. In turn, the AG once told his father “all that I am is a function of what you gave me.”