Holder was appointed in February 2009 to the U.S. Department of Justice as the nation’s first African American attorney general.
After the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly passed the voting law, which has cut back early voting and in 2016 will require voters to have a government-issued state ID, Holder led the DOJ to sue the state.
“The voting rights piece affected Americans as a whole. It’s not about black Americans; it’s about all Americans — veterans, poor people, students,” said Rep. Garland Pierce, chairman of the N.C. Legislative Black Caucus. “This whole attack on voting rights, (Holder) really stepped up on that.”
Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said Holder and the DOJ have helped gather data in this case by determining how many voters in the state do not have photo IDs.
When the lawsuit goes to trial in July 2015, Pierce said he remains hopeful it will be successful.
Holder will remain in the position until a replacement is found.
“In the months ahead, I will leave the Department of Justice, but I will never — I will never — leave the work,” he said in a statement on his resignation.
In addition to his work in North Carolina, civil rights advocates have heralded his record as a testament to forward thinking.
Holder took a hands-on role in Ferguson, Mo. following the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, said Trey Mangum, president of UNC’s Black Student Movement, in an email.
Earls said Holder has brought a sense of gravity to his role, particularly in the Ferguson conflict.
“(He’s) trying to bring to that situation a sense that the federal government will play its proper role in ensuring civil rights aren’t violated,” she said.
But Holder’s role as the first black attorney general was not without obstacles.
“It’s clear to me that a lot of the political attacks on him were attacks that would not have been made if he were white,” Earls said.
Pierce said Holder’s accomplishments on civil rights issues deserve praise.
Holder worked to limit federal drug sentencing laws and also helped progress various lawsuits involving same-sex marriage and voting rights.
“He has brought civil rights to the forefront of our country,” Pierce said.