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Attorney General Holder Speaks at Unveiling of United States Marshals Service 225th Anniversary Commemorative Coin


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good morning – and thank you all for being here.  It’s a pleasure to be joined by Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole, Director Stacia Hylton, and U.S. Mint Deputy Director Richard Peterson – along with Jim Dunn, president of the U.S. Marshals Museum; Craig Floyd, CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund; Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Association; and John Ryan, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  It’s a great privilege to stand with this distinguished group today – and to join Congressman Steve Womack and Senators John Boozman and Mark Pryor – as we commemorate a significant milestone in the rich and storied history of the United States Marshals Service; as we mark the 225th anniversary of this remarkable agency; and as we celebrate the legacies of thousands of elite men and women who, for two and a quarter centuries, have fought and sacrificed for justice, with integrity, and in service of the rule of law and the American people.

In honor of these brave public servants – and in order to preserve, perpetuate, and promote the Marshals Service’s singular history – it my privilege today to unveil three commemorative coins.  These coins were commissioned by an act of Congress.  And they will be struck by the U.S. Mint.

From America’s very first federal marshals, appointed by President George Washington in 1789, to those who serve this critical agency today – this country has always relied on the valor, the vigilance, and the dedication of Marshals, Deputy Marshals, and support personnel to keep the peace, to safeguard our system of justice, and to apprehend dangerous criminals who attempt to flee from accountability.  Especially in times of distress and difficulty – at moments of adversity and challenge – this Service has become, in many ways, the backbone of federal law enforcement, standing as a pillar of justice, strength, and resolve in rapidly-changing and endlessly-challenging environments.

Today, we remember the federal law enforcement pioneers who helped to keep a fledging nation together; the legendary lawmen who tamed the Wild West; the icons who helped restore our country after civil war, and – particularly this year, as we celebrate both the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – the heroes who put their lives on the line to integrate schools, and enforce civil rights protections for all citizens, amid the turmoil and violence of the Civil Rights Era.

It was the U.S. Marshals Service that, in the 1960s, escorted African American first-graders to school in New Orleans; guarded Freedom Riders; and marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protect Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  In the fall of 1962, it was the Marshals Service that helped to hold off a violent mob in one the most explosive confrontations of that era, quelling riots at the University of Mississippi at Oxford.

By the time the smoke and the tear gas had cleared on that terrible night, more than 160 Deputy and Special Deputy U.S. Marshals had been injured.  More than 200 people had been arrested.  And two innocent people – a bystander and a journalist – lay dead.  Yet the next day, thanks to their efforts, their courage, and their fidelity to the rule of law, that University’s first African-American student was officially enrolled – marking an inflection point in the ongoing struggle for equal opportunity and equal justice.

In that moment – as in countless others, defined by sacrifice and bravery, over the 225-year history of this Service – U.S. Marshals have helped to move our country closer to its highest ideals.  Even as we speak – from protecting the federal judiciary and federal court family, to the tenacious pursuit of fugitive felons throughout the world – today’s U.S. Marshals Service is continuing to uphold the finest traditions established by those who have gone before.

Each year, the Marshals Service arrests over 100,000 fugitives, in close collaboration with state, local and federal partners and through the efficient use of task force resources.  Thanks to the efforts of criminal investigators here in the United States and in three foreign field offices – alongside partners from around the globe – approximately 900 individuals are extradited, deported, or removed every year.  Roughly 120,000 prisoners are moved by the USMS prisoner transportation system on an annual basis.  And, especially in recent years – by rushing to Ground Zero to aid victims of the September 11th attacks; by assessing potential security threats and providing security for high-profile criminal trials; by seizing and managing the assets of those engaged in financial fraud – in every office and unit, from the Witness Protection Program to Tactical Operations – this agency continues to prove that it is, and will always remain, “First for Justice.”

That’s why, at every stage of my career – as a lifelong prosecutor and a former judge; as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and Deputy Attorney General; and now as Attorney General of the United States – I’ve always considered it a tremendous honor to serve alongside the men and women of the U.S. Marshals Service.  I’ve seen, firsthand, the impact of their contributions at every level of our justice system and in every community across this country.  And I view today’s unveiling not only as a unique opportunity to celebrate one of our nation’s oldest and most impressive traditions of service, but also to thank these heroic men and women who risk their lives to keep us safe, whose efforts make our country stronger, and who will continue to guide and inspire the very best of federal law enforcement for years to come.

Now, it’s my privilege to introduce the Deputy Director of the U.S. Mint, Richard Peterson, who will provide additional information about today’s announcement.

Updated August 18, 2015