Opal Lee, ‘Grandmother of Juneteenth,’ to be inducted into Texas Women’s Hall of Fame

Ms. Opal Lee, the “grandmother of Juneteenth.” (KPRC 2)

AUSTIN – Activist Opal Lee, the woman known for being the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” is among those who will be inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in November, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday.

According to Abbott, the recognition is for “her community service in Fort Worth and her tireless advocacy nationwide, winning federal recognition of the historic Juneteenth holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States, and for her perseverance in promoting a message of unity and understanding.”

The 96-year-old Fort Worth native helped make Juneteenth a federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S. Lee’s efforts included having organized walks in cities across the country as part of her campaign to have June 19 recognized as the federal holiday it is now. Her advocacy began at the age of 89, according to the Associated Press.

In February, she became the second Black person whose portrait hangs in the senate chamber of the state Capitol. She was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2022.

Hosted by the governor and First Lady Cecilia Abbott, the 2023 Texas Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on Thursday, Nov. 9, in Austin. Other honorees this year include:

  • Leta Andrews (athletics) — In recognition of her more than 50 years as a dedicated teacher and coach, with half of those at Granbury High School, inspiring her students to be champions in sports and in life and leading the nation with the most career wins as a basketball coach.
  • Mary Horn (public service) — In posthumous recognition of her legacy of dedicated public service in 26 years of elected office, including as the longest-serving Denton County judge, carefully stewarding taxpayer resources while administering necessary services in one of the fastest-growing counties.
  • Val LaMantia (business) — In recognition of her business leadership as owner and managing partner of a beverage distribution company, her service to the McAllen community, and her role as a founding member of the STARS Scholarship Fund, furthering education for nearly 20,000 students in South and West Texas.
  • Lavinia Masters (advocacy/community service) — In recognition of her selflessness and strength, “building on her faith and finding the power of her voice to speak for survivors of sexual violence,” to raise awareness of a nationwide rape kit backlog, and to bring justice through legislative action.
  • Antonietta Quigg (science/technology) — In recognition of her leadership of critical marine-related research at Texas A&M University at Galveston and at College Station, leading to a “better understanding” of Texas’ coastal ecosystem, and for her passion in mentoring student researchers.
  • Charlotte Sharp (philanthropy) — In posthumous recognition of her legacy of “faith-filled compassion and generosity,” volunteering her time and raising funds to help ease the suffering of others, comfort sick children, feed hungry families, and seek shelter for individuals struggling to find a safe place to live.
  • Elizabeth Suarez (public service) — In recognition of her journey of service and leadership in municipal government, forging regional ground and air connectivity for a “seamless domestic and international transportation network” supporting economic expansion in McAllen and across the Rio Grande Valley and Texas.

The Texas Women’s Hall of Fame was established in 1984 by the Governor’s Commission for Women to recognize the achievements of Texas women.

Inductees include former first ladies, astronauts, entrepreneurs, public servants, Olympic athletes, and other women with significant accomplishments.

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Prairie View A&M University graduate with a master’s degree in Digital Media Studies from Sam Houston State. Delta woman. Proud aunt. Lover of the color purple. 💜