Attorney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder Flickr user North Charleston

Eric Holder Will Resign as Attorney General

Holder is expected to leave office once a successor is confirmed.

This story has been updated. 

Attorney General Eric Holder is getting ready to leave the Obama administration.  Holder, who has served in the post since February 2009 and is the U.S.' first African-American attorney general, will resign his job at the Department of Justice once a successor is confirmed by the Senate.

A White House official praised Holder's tenure, which made him the fourth-longest serving attorney general ever, and his legacy on civil rights.

NPR first reported the decision. President Obama is expected to address the resignation later this afternoon. Obama only learned of Holder's decision "very recently," according to a White House pool report.

The move isn't exactly unexpected. Holder has had an at-times contentious run in the job, high-lighted by being held in contempt of Congress in June, 2012 over Operation Fast and Furious. Earlier that year, a slew of Republican members of Congress called on Holder to resign over the investigation into the failed gun-running operation, which Holder explicitly rejected during a June Senate hearing.

Earlier this year, Holder got in a tense back-and-forth with Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, over the 2012 contempt charge. "You don't want to go there, buddy," Holder told Gohmert after the congressman told him that the contempt charge was "not a big deal" to the attorney general.

"Good riddance Eric Holder," Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., tweeted in response to the news that Holder is stepping down. "With Holder resigning, my hope is for an Attorney General who respects the rule of law instead of trying to find ways around it," tweeted Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala.

But at least one prominent Republican isn't holding a grudge as Holder heads for the exit.

Holder has built up a strong reputation on civil rights, and has acted at times as the Obama administration's leading voice on racial issues. That was evident as recently as this August, when Holder went to Ferguson, Missouri as the administration's representative on the ground.

"I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man," Holder told a crowd at a Ferguson community college. "I can remember being stopped on the New Jersey turnpike on two occasions and accused of speeding. Pulled over.... 'Let me search your car.' ... Go through the trunk of my car, look under the seats and all this kind of stuff. I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me."

Long-time civil rights activist Myrlie Evers said Thursday that "there has been no greater ally in the fight for justice, civil rights, equal rights and voting rights than Attorney General Holder."

profile of Holder in The New Yorker earlier this year by Jeffrey Toobin suggested that he would end his tenure sometime in 2014. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. is a candidate to replace Holder, NPR reports. Verrilli, who defended the Affordable Care Act at the Supreme Court in 2012, was confirmed by the Senate in 2011 for his current job by a 72-16 margin, with 26 Republicans voting in support.

One other possible successor is now saying that he doesn't want the job:

That said, the White House says that the president has not made a final decision on a replacement, and no decision will be coming today.

The decision would put a whole new load of pressure on an already tight lame-duck session of Congress after the election. Now—on top of dealing with a budget deadline, ISIS and U.S. military action in Iraq and Syria, and the ongoing fighting in Ukraine—that short session may have to deal with the confirmation of a new attorney general. And if they don't, the move could be the first thing on the docket for the next Congress, with a Senate that could potentially be in Republican hands.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

Dustin Volz and Billy House contributed to this article.

(Image via Flickr user North Charleston)