Opal Lee portrait unveiled at Texas State Capitol Wednesday
AUSTIN, Texas - Opal Lee entered the Texas Senate with a big smile on her face Wednesday morning, with friends and family packed into the upper gallery.
The grandmother of Juneteenth, was honored Wednesday with a new portrait that will hang in the Texas State Capitol.
The portrait was unveiled during a Senate session on Wednesday and the crowd gave a round of applause to the 96-year-old Fort Worth community activist.
Lee's jaw was on the floor as the portrait was unveiled, with many lawmakers standing nearby.
"I was so happy and humbled. I wanted to do a holy dance, but the kids say I'm twerking when I do that," Lee said after the ceremony. "It was beautiful. Hey! I didn't know I looked that good!"
Lee is the second African-American in history to adorn the walls of the state capitol in Austin, the other is Barbara Jordan, the first African-American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and the first Black congresswoman from the South.
"There are so many other people who have done things much greater than what I've done. All I've done is simply say we need to work together," Lee said.
READ MORE: Opal Lee to become second African-American with portrait in the Texas Capitol
For years, Lee pushed to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. The bill adding the holiday was signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021, with Lee standing at his side.
Lee was back in Austin Wednesday as part of a promise made two years ago by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
Behind Lee's portrait at the unveiling was the portrait of Jefferson Davis, a representation of the racial divide in Texas.
Recent efforts to remove the painting of the Confederate president seemed to have stalled.
"I think that there has to be a discussion about whose portraits are appropriate for the Senate chamber to be reflective of the citizens of Texas," said State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas). "We can't hide from the history of the state. You know, should it be in a museum? Should it be there? That's a debate that we're going to have."
The slow pace of change is something Lee knows well, so she urged those who want to make a difference not to get discouraged.
"I'm saying to make themselves a committee of one. That they've got to change somebody's mind and minds can be changed. If people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love and it's up to these young people to do it," Lee said. "It's not going to happen in a day. They have to work at it."
Lee is an example of how that kind of work can bring about change.