At 96 years old, Opal Lee wasn’t your typical concert-goer at Shaquille O’Neal’s Bass All-Stars Festival in Fort Worth over the weekend.

She wasn’t dancing or jamming to the electronic dance music that blared from Panther Island on Saturday. But like many of the other festival fans, she was interested in meeting O’Neal.

Lee, the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” was at the concert to support to another Fort Worth-area event with hopes of telling O’Neal about her Juneteenth causes. Dione Sims, said her grandmother was particularly enthused about meeting the 7-foot-1 NBA legend after learning that he was a part-time Carrollton resident.


“And when she gets a bee in her bonnet, there’s not much that stops her,” Sims said Tuesday.

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Lee caught O’Neal after the show and showed him renderings of the National Juneteenth Museum in Fort Worth. Sims, the museum’s executive director, said O’Neal was in a rush to catch a flight but promised to check in with Lee.

“We’d love for him to be able to be a part of our festival this summer,” Sims said.


Lee is well-known for walking from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., in 2016. The civil-rights icon walked 2.5 miles every day, advocating for Juneteenth to be recognized as a national holiday. The distance represented the 2 1/2 years that it took Texans to learn the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed by president Abraham Lincoln.

In 90-degree heat this past June, hundreds joined Lee’s Walk for Freedom through Fort Worth’s historic Southside neighborhood.

Last month, Lee was among eight women selected by Gov. Greg Abbott and the Governor’s Commission for Women to be inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2021, Lee was chosen as The Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year.

Opal Lee poses with Carrigan Chauvin, a meteorologist at CW39 in Houston at the Shaquille O Neal Bass All-Stars Festival in Fort Worth.(Carrigan Chauvin)

At Panther Island, Lee also posed for photos with concert-goers, including Carrigan Chauvin, a meteorologist at CW39 in Houston. Chauvin spotted Lee outside of where O’Neal’s bus was parked.

“I thought, OK, this lady’s got to be important,” Chauvin said. “I didn’t recognize her at first. But once I heard her name, then I realized who she was, and it was just fascinating. She was just getting around so well. It was really a treat to see her.

“My favorite thing that she told me was that she is everybody’s grandmother.”

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