Portrait Of 96-Year-Old Opal Lee, “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” Unveiled In Texas Senate

The portrait is only the second in the Senate to honor an African-American Texan.

Opal Lee Portrait

Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty Images

Opal Lee, the 96-year-old who spent decades working to have Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday, was honored with a portrait unveiling at the Texas Senate Wednesday.

The portrait, painted by Texas artist Jess Coleman, is only the second in the Senate to honor an African-American Texan.

“I didn’t know I looked that good!” Lee reportedly joked shortly after seeing the painting for the first time.

According to the Associated Press, lawmakers gave a “lengthy” standing ovation for Lee, who organized walks in cities across the U.S. as part of her campaign to have June 19 recognized as a federal holiday. Her determination to have that date recognized on the highest level paid off in 2021, when President Joe Biden signed a bill to recognize it as a federal holiday. Lee, known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2022

Lee's portrait will be displayed in the Senate Chamber alongside portraits of other famous Texans including Barbara Jordan, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Sam Houston.

"We want to make certain that you understand and appreciate how important this particular day is in the history of the State of Texas," Dallas Senator Royce West told her. “Your portrait will join the portraits of other great Texans around here, and will be here in perpetuity. Young people will know the story of Opal Lee as they know the stories of so many other persons whose portraits are displayed here in this chamber."

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick called Wednesday "a historic day" for the Senate, noting that this was the first time in 43 years that a new portrait had been commissioned for the Chamber. "This does not happen often," he said. "It's a great honor…it’s a great day for Texas." 

Congratulations Miss Opal!

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