If his confirmation holds up, Eric Holder, Jr. will become the nation’s first Black attorney general. And a day after the presidential inauguration, Holder, who was born in the Bronx on January 21, 1951, will celebrate his 58th birthday. For several weeks, the pundits have been pondering the composition of President-elect Barack Obama’s cabinet and which African-Americans might be tapped for some of the top slots. Obama’s selection of Holder, who many viewed as a good choice for the attorney general, will set aside some concerns as it raises others, since he was the number-two official in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration.

While Holder will have to endure a thorough vetting process before he’s confirmed–with a particularly strong focus on his involvement in the pardon of the fugitive Marc Rich by President Clinton in 2001–there is widespread opinion that Senate Republicans will not block the nomination.

During Obama’s campaign, Holder was a key adviser and, along with Jim Johnson and Caroline Kennedy, had served on the President-elect’s vice presidential selection committee. Holder, who grew up in Queens, attended Stuyvesant High School and earned a B.A. from Columbia University in 1973 and his J.D. from the school in 1976. His parents emigrated from Barbados. From 1976 to 1988, Holder worked in the Justice Department as a trial lawyer in the Public Integrity section. President Reagan appointed him to serve as an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. In 1993, he was appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia by President Clinton. Four years later, he was nominated to the position of his deputy attorney general, and former two positions were firsts for a Black American.

In 2001, Holder, along with Jack Quinn, played significant roles in pardoning Rich. Rich was indicted in 1983 for evading more than $48 million in taxes and charged with 51 counts of tax fraud, as well as running illegal oil deals with Iran during the 1979-80 hostage crisis. His pardon by the president was the source of outrage from Republicans and Democrats. An investigation was launched to determine whether Rich’s wealthy wife, Denise, and her donations to the Clintons were instrumental in facilitating the pardon. There was, in the end, not enough evidence to indict Clinton. Since leaving the Clinton administration, Holder has worked as an attorney at Covington & Burling in D.C. He is married to Dr. Sharon Malone, an obstetrician, and they have three children.