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As Loretta Lynch's Wait for Attorney General Ends, Who Is She?

If confirmed, Lynch would be the first African-American woman to hold the nation’s top law enforcement post.
/ Source: NBC News

At long last, her wait is over.

Loretta Lynch, the federal prosecutor President Barack Obama tapped as his pick to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, was confirmed in a 56-43 Senate vote on Thursday. Lynch is the first African American woman to hold the nation’s top law enforcement post.

The vote came more than 50 days after the president chose her to succeed Holder — longer than the past seven attorneys general. And the president was none too pleased about the delay, calling it "embarrassing" on Friday.

Lynch’s confirmation was tied up in a protracted congressional fight over a human trafficking bill which contained abortion funding language Democrats opposed as restrictive.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to move forward with Lynch’s confirmation vote until the fight over the human trafficking bill was resolved. Negotiators in both parties reached an agreement and the Senate passed the measure on Wednesday.

Here are five facts about the next attorney general:

Raised Southern Baptist, developed Brooklyn grit

Lynch, 55, is originally from North Carolina. He mother was a school librarian and her father a fourth-generation Baptist minister. When she was a girl, her father often took her with him to watch court proceedings. Like the president and First Lady Michelle Obama, Lynch is a Harvard Law School graduate.

She began her career as a litigation associate for the prestigious New York law firm, Cahill Gordon & Reindel, before becoming a prosecutor with the Eastern District of New York— which covers Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and parts of Long Island.

No stranger to Civil Rights

As a prosecutor in U.S. Attorney’s office, she helped get a high profile conviction for the New York police officer who sexually assaulted Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant, with a broom handle. It was one of the most contentious police brutality cases of the 1990s. For a woman who, as a child accompanied her father to meetings to plan boycotts of segregated businesses, the Louima prosecution was a professional highlight.

Image: Abner Louima
Abner Louima, left, speaks at a news conference as Rev. Al Sharpton looks on at the Roney Palace Beach Resort in Miami Beach, Fla., Thursday, March 7, 2002.LUIS M. ALVAREZ / AP

She’s taken on the “Goodfellas”

As a U.S. Attorney twice-over — Lynch was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to that role in 1999, then she left for private practice in 2001 and then was appointed a second time by Obama in 2010 — she's covered a lot of ground. Her office has taken on cybercrime, high-stakes financial fraud and helped convict the masterminds of the thwarted al Qaeda plot to attack the New York subway system. Her office's work also included dramatic Mafia busts. The movie “Goodfellas” was based, in part, on Vincent Asaro and his crew's $6 million cash and jewel heist from a Lufthansa vault at John. F. Kennedy International Airport in 1978—a case her office prosecuted last year.

Image: Bonanno crime family leader Vincent Asaro is escorted by FBI agents from their Manhattan offices in New York
Bonanno crime family leader Vincent Asaro is escorted by FBI agents from their Manhattan offices in New York January 23, 2014. Five reported members of a New York crime family were taken into custody on Thursday and charged with crimes including racketeering, murder and the long-unsolved 1978 Lufthansa heist at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Court papers unsealed in New York charge that the men were members of the Bonanno crime family, which also committed acts of extortion and arson, including the airport heist, a brazen crime made famous by the 1990 film "Goodfellas."Brendan McDermid / Reuters

She’s taken on politicians

Lynch's office has also prosecuted several Democratic public officials, including State Sen. John L. Sampson, former State Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. and Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr. Last year, Lynch's office worked to indict former Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., on federal fraud, tax evasion and perjury charges. Grimm won his re-election bid in November but stepped down and pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion. His sentencing is set for June.

Image: Rep. Michael Grimm
U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) leaves US District Court on December 23, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Grimm pleaded guilty to one count of felony tax fraud.Michael Graae / Getty Images

She’s sorority “sisters” with Holder’s wife

Lynch and Holder’s wife, Sharon Malone, an obstetrician and gynecologist, founded Harvard College’s chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority in 1980. Decades later, her sorority sisters, clad in crimson and cream, showed up in full force at a Senate hearing room in January to show their support.