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Opal Lee
Opal Lee was featured at a TCU women’s basketball halftime in February 2022 in honor of Black History Month.

June 19, 2022 will be the second Juneteenth that Opal Lee will witness as the federal holiday she worked tirelessly to make. On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a law making June 19 — the day enforcement of enslaved Black people’s freedom in America reached the shores of Galveston, Texas — a national day of observance.

It will be the first Juneteenth she will celebrate as “Dr.” Opal Lee.

TCU presented Lee an honorary doctor of letters at its fall 2021 commencement for her civil rights accomplishments and community impact, an honor that was widely covered by the media.

“Opal Lee, your work has touched the lives of people in Fort Worth, Texas, and around the nation,” Chancellor Victor J. Boschini, Jr. said at the presentation. “We are thrilled that you can be with us today to share in this happy occasion and receive this gesture of our esteem.”

Lee recently earned another title: Fort Worth Inc.’s 2022 Person of the Year, an honor “bestowed on an individual who has demonstrated a significant contribution to making Greater Fort Worth a better place to live and work.”

Affectionately known as the “grandmother of Juneteenth,” Lee’s efforts to make the date a national day of observance include annual recognition walks and her own 1,400-mile walk from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., at age 89 in petition for the holiday.

“She’s been fighting for what’s right all of her life,” Frederick W. Gooding, Jr., the Dr. Ronald E. Moore Professor in Humanities in TCU’s John V. Roach Honors College, told the magazine.

At 95, Lee is the oldest living board member of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation and leads Fort Worth’s Annual Juneteenth Celebration.

Last fall, the new National Juneteenth Museum was announced. It will be built in Fort Worth as part of a mixed-use development in the city’s Historic Southside neighborhood. The site currently houses Lee’s Fort Worth Juneteenth Museum. The new museum will not only share the history of Juneteenth and Opal Lee but will also host events and exhibits that foster continued conversation on the global significance of freedom.