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Opal Lee, “grandmother of Juneteenth”, receives honorary doctorate degree from SMU

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Opal Lee, the 97-year-old “grandmother” of Juneteenth, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Southern Methodist University at a Saturday commencement, Star-Telegram media partner, WFAA-TV reported.

This marks her eighth honorary degree, according to WFAA.

“Having Ms. Lee join us at commencement and share her work through a symposium is a signal honor for our University,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Her life’s work is most deserving of this recognition, and she will inspire our students.”

Her commencement comes after she was among the 19 recipients awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, at the White House on May 3.

Lee, who moved to Fort Worth when she was 10, symbolically walked 1,400 miles from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., in 2016 to raise awareness of the importance of Juneteenth. She attended the signing ceremony at the White House in 2021 when Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Lee was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022. On March 21, work began on building a new home for Lee on the exact spot in the Historic Southside neighborhood where a racist white mob trashed her family’s home more than 80 years ago.

Lee said when she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize that she believes her mission to serve is not done yet. “You got to help people if you can,” she said. “And I can. I still can.”

SMU also held a symposium honoring Lee’s achievements, according to WFAA. Her granddaughter, Dione Sims, the founding executive director of the National Juneteenth Museum, was also in attendance.

The symposium is free to the public and reservations can be made online.

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