Known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” Opal Lee was present on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act bill that established June 19 or “Juneteenth” a federal holiday. Opal is the oldest living board member of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF), started by the late Dr. Ronald Myers to have Juneteenth declared a National Holiday. At 90 years of age, she started her walking campaign and in 2019 she launched an online petition campaign that garnered over 1.6 million signatures to continue the crusade for holiday observance.
She currently serves on the board of Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Transform 1012 N. Main Street, and is a Board Member and Honorary Chair of the National Juneteenth Museum. She has received six honorary doctorates, has been named 2021 Texan of the Year by the Dallas Morning News editorial board, the 2021 Unsung Hero of the Pandemic, Fort Worth Inc.’s 2022 Person of the Year, is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and most recently became the second African American to have her portrait hung in the Texas State Senate.