Attorney General Eric Holder Oversees 100,000 Workers, but He's Still Often Late for Pizza

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lots of kids like to play cops and robbers. Eric H. Holder Jr. doesn't have to pretend: He is the nation's top cop -- and its chief lawyer, too!

Holder is the 82nd U.S. attorney general in the nation's history. But he is the first African American to hold the job.

His selection by our first African American president, Barack Obama, shows the racial progress the country has made since the end of slavery, Holder said.

"It's very cool," he said. "We have fundamentally changed."

As head of the Department of Justice, Holder has a huge job. He is in charge of about 100,000 people. They work to enforce the nation's laws, prevent and control crime, and take to court people who violate U.S. law.

Among the agencies in the department are the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Prisons and the FBI, or Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Can you figure out what they each do by their titles? Learn more at

Holder, 58, starts every workday with an 8:15 a.m. meeting at the FBI headquarters in downtown Washington. There, he and other top officials talk about things that could affect the country's security.

He then usually goes to his very big office nearby at the Justice Department's headquarters, checks a black book packed with information about his daily schedule and stays busy all day and into the night.

His desk boasts a collection of medallions from police departments and other places he has visited. There is, too, a small basketball, a gift from the president of the Women's National Basketball Association.

Holder, like President Obama, loves basketball but said he doesn't think playing Obama would be a great idea. "He's a little younger than I am," he said, laughing. Obama, in fact, is 11 years younger!

Holder grew up in New York City, went to public schools and has served as a judge, a U.S. attorney (a federal official who prosecutes people in court), a deputy attorney general and a private lawyer.

He lives in the District with his wife, Dr. Sharon Malone, and their three children, 15-year-old Maya, 13-year-old Brooke and 11-year-old Buddy. Friday night is pizza night at their house, but he is often late.

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