Opal Lee awarded nation’s highest civilian honor ahead of receiving her 8th honorary degree

Dollita Okine May 06, 2024
President Biden praised Lee for her achievements in having the newest national holiday declared in 2021. Photo Credit: CBS News Texas

Once more, popular 97-year-old activist Opal Lee has received honor; this time, the President of the United States presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her efforts in establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday.

President Joe Biden praised Lee for her achievements in having the newest national holiday declared in 2021. The award ceremony took place on Friday in the same room where he signed the law making Juneteenth the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day, according to Dallas News.

Biden described it as “one of the most important laws” of his presidency during the ceremony, recalling how he gave Lee, “the grandmother of the movement that helped make it possible,” the first signing pen.

At the age of 89, retired educator and longtime activist Lee led a symbolic march from Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C. in 2016 as part of efforts to persuade legislators to declare Juneteenth a federal holiday marking the abolition of slavery after the Civil War. She got President Biden to sign the legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday on June 17, 2021.

“Miss Opal Lee made it her mission to make history, not erase it. We’re in a better nation because you, Opal. Thank you,” the president said during Friday’s event, according to ABC News

Along with fellow civil rights advocates Clarence B. Jones and Medgar Wiley Evers, Lee was one of 19 individuals to be awarded the highest civilian award in the country.

The White House said in a statement, “These nineteen Americans built teams, coalitions, movements, organizations, and businesses that shaped America for the better. They are the pinnacle of leadership in their fields. They consistently demonstrated over their careers the power of community, hard work, and service.”

Famously referred to as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” Lee has made a name for herself in history books and gained recognition. Some of her accomplishments include having her image displayed in the Texas State Capitol, being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, being awarded more than seven honorary degrees, and more.

On Saturday, she will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Southern Methodist University’s commencement ceremony.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: May 6, 2024


Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates