MARSHALL, Texas (KETK) — Opal Lee, East Texas native and 1953 Wiley College graduate, was named the Grandmother of Juneteenth after her efforts helped the holiday become nationally recognized. Her alma mater awarded her an honorary doctorate to celebrate their 150th year.

Lee was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022 for her activism toward making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

“Wiley I got some memories, I got some good memories too,” said Dr. Opal Lee, Honorary Degree Recipient.

To celebrate 150 years, Wiley College surprised Ms. Opal Lee with an honorary doctorate degree.

“I was grateful, I really was and I wondered if there was another I should have done better while I was here… Wiley means a lot to me,” Dr. Lee.

The new Dr. Lee was beyond excited but said she had to hold back her celebration.

“Oh I tell you, I told the kids I wanted to do a holy dance, but they say I’m twerking so I don’t try it,” Dr. Lee.

The President and CEO of Wiley College said giving the Grandmother of Juneteenth this award means a lot to him.

“You think about what legacy really means, to be next to Ms. Opal Lee, a woman who has given so much of herself,” said Dr. Herman J. Felton Jr., President and CEO of Wiley College.

Dr. Lee being honored was only half of the convocation. Students, alumni and politicians got to reminisce on the past and future.

“Getting the chance to really hear from our alumni who this place impacted just reminds you of why you are here, what’s really important,” said Dr. Felton Jr. 

  • Opal Lee and Jasmine Farmer
  • Wiley College 150th celebration
  • Opal Lee's honorary doctorate

Lee left everyone with a special message:

“We’re supposed to look after each other and I’m hoping people will understand that we can do no less,” said Lee.