Former Attorney General Eric Holder to speak at Pomona in February

A man in a suit stands in front of an American flag.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder will speak at Pomona College’s family weekend in February. (Courtesy of the United States Department of Justice via Wikimedia Commons).

Former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder will speak at Pomona College over family weekend in February as the 2020 Payton Distinguished Lecturer, according to a news release

Holder will be joined in a conversation on voting rights and inequality in the U.S. by associate politics professor Amanda Hollis-Brusky in Big Bridges Auditorium on Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m., the release said.

Holder served under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2015 as the first African American attorney general and went on to chair the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group helping elect Democrats in state races that may influence redistricting efforts following the 2020 Census, according to Politico and the release.

His 6-year term as attorney general was the third-longest in U.S. history, during which he oversaw prosecutions of co-conspirators of the 9/11 attacks, members of the mafia in New York and leakers within the Justice Department, according to Politico, The Guardian and The New York Times.

In 2011, Holder announced that the Department of Justice would not defend the Defense of Marriage Act — a piece of federal legislation that defined the word ‘marriage’ as the “legal union between one man and one woman” — in federal court, according to CBS News. Four years later, Obergefell v. Hodges would establish the right to same-sex marriage by law.

Holder faced criticism a result of the Fast and Furious scandal, where a failed firearms sting operation led to weapons being sold to Mexican drug cartels, lost and potentially used in the murder of a border patrol agent, according to CNN.

As a result of the scandal, Holder became the first attorney general to be held in criminal contempt of Congress in June 2012, according to Politico.

The Department of Justice declined to prosecute Holder for contempt of congress, according to CNN, and a Justice Department investigation concluded he had no prior knowledge of the operation, according to The Guardian. The Inspector General of the Department of Justice would later clear Holder of wrongdoing, according to a Justice Department report.

After his departure from the Justice Department in 2015, Holder returned briefly to private practice, according to the website for Covington, the firm where he worked, before joining the NDRC in October 2016 as chair, according to NDRC’s site

The Payton Distinguished Lectureship was established in 2017 in memory of John Payton PO ’73, a founder of the Black Student Union and Intercollegiate Black Studies Center. Previous speakers have included Anna Deavere Smith, a playwright and professor at NYU, and the Reverend James M. Lawson, Jr., a civil rights leader, according to Pomona’s website.

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