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A Texas woman was driven off her land by a racist mob in 1939. More than eight decades later, she owns it again.

Woman driven off land 8 decades ago owns it again
A woman was driven off her land by a racist mob. 8 decades later, she owns it again. 02:35

Fort Worth, Texas — At the age of 97, just stepping out of a 4-by-4 truck is a major accomplishment. But Opal Lee has taken much greater strides than this, with no plans to sit anytime soon.

"We don't have to sit around and wait for the Lord to come for us," Lee told CBS News. "In fact, he's going to have to catch me."

Opal is a retired teacher and lifelong community activist in Fort Worth, Texas.  She's mostly known for her successful campaign to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.  But what is lesser known is how that fire in her belly came to be.

In 1939, when Lee was 12, her family moved into a house that stood in an all-White neighborhood.  They had lived at the home for just five days when a mob showed up.

"They tore it asunder," Lee said. "They set stuff on fire. They did despicable things."

The family moved away and moved on. They just wanted to forget the horror. Until eight decades later, when Lee decided the time had come to remember it.

So she looked up the address, and discovered the lot was still vacant and owned by the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

Trinity Habit for Humanity CEO Gage Yager took Lee's call. He listened to her story, but then told her she could not "buy" the property.

"I said, 'Well, we won't sell it to you Opal, but we'll give it to you,'" Yager told CBS News. "There's no option for anything else."

Lee's response?

"When I get happy, I want to do a holy dance," Lee said. "But the kids say I'm twerking, so I don't ever do it."

And she still hadn't heard the best news. Gage offered to work with donors to put a house on her land for free. Plans are done and he hopes to have it ready for Lee to move in by her 99th birthday.

"I want you to know that I've got a God who has been so good to me," Lee said. "I think if I ask, he'd let me have a couple more years."

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