Vernita Lee, Oprah

Oprah Winfrey paid tribute to her mother, Vernita Lee, who died on Thanksgiving day at age 83. Lee is pictured with Oprah in this undated photo.

The family confirmed Lee died of natural causes at her home in Milwaukee on Thanksgiving Day.

Lee was 18 when she gave birth to Oprah on Jan 29, 1954 in Mississippi. She named her firstborn child after a woman mentioned in the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Ruth.

Lee left her baby with her mother to raise for the first six years of Oprah’s life.

Oprah eventually traveled to Milwaukee to live with her mother.

Another daughter born to Lee died in 2003, followed by a son who died in 1989.

Oprah and her mother had a distant relationship before reconnecting years ago.


Oprah posted this family photo on her Instagram account on Monday. She captioned the image:

“Thank you all for your kind words and condolences regarding my mother Vernita Lee’s passing. It gives our family great comfort knowing she lived a good life and is now at Peace.”

According to published reports, the family already held a private funeral for Lee.

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images