Holder addresses FBA at luncheon Nation's first black AG says McCree embodied qualities he seeks to emulate

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By David N. Goodman

Associated Press Writer

DETROIT (AP) -- Eric Holder said Wednesday he owes his job as the nation's first black attorney general to the path paved by the second African-American to become solicitor general, Wade McCree Jr.

Holder didn't address two high-profile Detroit cases during his speech: the prosecution of "underwear bomb" suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his department's probe of the FBI's Oct. 28 fatal shooting of Luqman Abdullah, imam of a Detroit mosque, during a raid.

Holder spoke to about 500 people at the Federal Bar Association's annual social justice award luncheon named for McCree and later attended the installation of Eastern Michigan U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.

Holder said he was a "young and idealistic lawyer" in the U.S. Justice Department when President Jimmy Carter named McCree solicitor general, the federal government's chief lawyer in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Holder said when Carter appointed McCree, he was a prosecutor in the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section.

"I was fresh out of law school, a young and idealistic attorney," Holder said, "and Wade McCree embodied the qualities that I, as a young African-American, hoped to emulate as a lawyer."

He said each generation has "people of principle" who have "triumphed over the evils" of their time to "help create a better America."

"Each of us has walked through a doorway of possibility that these leaders pried open," he said. "I have walked through doors opened by Judge McCree and stand on his shoulders. We have a responsibility to ensure that this progress continues."

As solicitor general in 1976-81, McCree argued the 1978 affirmative-action case involving white medical school applicant Allan Bakke, as well as issues over the release of President Richard Nixon's Oval Office tapes.

Before that, McCree was a judge on the U.S. District Court in Detroit and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. He taught at the University of Michigan after leaving federal service until his death in 1987.

Published: Fri, Feb 19, 2010

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