r closed out 24 years on the bench Aug. 31 with a flurry of honors and accolades. Not bad, considering a career in law was her Plan B.
When she graduated from college in the 1970s, she wanted to be a research psychologist, but an administrative fluke prevented her from pursuing those studies.
Then, she applied to law school at Duquesne University. At the same time, she applied to attend a graduate school in France and to be a flight attendant for Pan Am.
"I got accepted to all of those things, and I decided I wanted to go to law school," she said.
Her first job out of law school, as a clerk for a federal district judge in Pittsburgh, triggered her ambition to reach the bench. She reached that goal in 1990, when she became a circuit court judge in Memphis.
In 1996, when Penny White became the only Tennessee Supreme Court justice to lose a retention election, Holder joined the state's highest court, staying there for 18 years.
Holder was the first woman to serve as the state's chief justice, from 2008-2010. It was a milestone that felt foreign to Holder, who has "never been a first."
"It was a long time coming," she said. "I would've thought that that would've happened a while back."
Holder announced her plan to retire in 2013. Since then, she has received multiple honors. This summer, the Tennessee Bar Association awarded her for her "outstanding service to the legal profession." The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services named an award after her.
Moving forward, she hopes to continue to work as a volunteer on several legal endeavors. She also plans to spend more time practicing karate (she's a fourth-degree black belt) and take more spins in her 1964 Chevrolet Corvair.
"I've enjoyed every minute of every year that I have served," she said. "It has been such a wonderful opportunity and such an honor to have been permitted to serve."
Holder will serve as chief justice of a special Supreme Court convened to hear a lawsuit filed by Nashville lawyer John Jay Hooker over how justices have been evaluated.