Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird” dies at 89

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Nelle Harper Lee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” has died at the age of 89 in her hometown of Monroeville. The town’s mayor, Mike Kennedy, confirmed her death to WHNT News 19.

Al.com broke the news earlier Friday morning.  Lee’s nursing home is not releasing any information at this time.

Spencer Madrie, an employee at Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe in Monroeville, said friends would come into the book shop frequently and purchase books for Lee, who was living at a local nursing home.  Madrie said he was told Lee passed away around 4 a.m. Friday morning.

Condolences are pouring in online for the Alabama author who rocked the literary world with the iconic “Mockingbird,” which was released in 1960. It is a coming of age story about two children who learn about racism and acceptance in the 1930s Deep South.  Lee loosely based the plot and characters on her observations of her family and neighbors, as well as on an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936.


Lee was quoted saying this in Newsquist in 1964:

“I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected,” Lee said.

Lee led an extremely private life.  In early 2015, both Lee’s literary agent and publisher said she had not spoken to the press since 1964.

Here’s more information about Lee’s life, in a timeline form:


Birth date: April 28, 1926

Birth place: Monroeville, Alabama

Birth name: Nelle Harper Lee

Father: Amasa Coleman Lee, attorney and member of the Alabama State Legislature

Mother: Frances (Finch) Lee

Education: Attended Huntingdon College, 1944-1945; University of Alabama, 1945-1949; also a study-abroad program at Oxford University in England.

Other Facts:

Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, was the inspiration for Maycomb, the fictional town where “To Kill a Mockingbird” took place in the 1930s.

Lee’s father, A. C. Lee, was the basis for the small-town attorney and father, Atticus Finch, in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Lee has been described as extremely private. In early 2015, both Lee’s literary agent and publisher said she hasn’t spoken the press since 1964.

Was childhood friends with author Truman Capote, who some say was the inspiration for the neighbor, Dill, in “Mockingbird.”

She is reportedly named after her grandmother, Ellen – spelled backwards is Nelle.


1950s – Moves to New York, and works as a reservations clerk at Eastern Airlines and British Overseas Airways.

1956 – Friends impressed with Lee’s writing abilities give her money to support herself for a year. She leaves her job at the airline to concentrate full-time on writing.

1959 – Travels to Kansas with Truman Capote as his research assistant on an article for the New Yorker about the murder of a farm family. The article evolves into Capote’s true-crime novel, “In Cold Blood.”

July 1960 – “To Kill a Mockingbird” is released.

1961 – Two short stories by Lee are published in magazines: “Love – In Other Words,” in Vogue, and “Christmas To Me,” in McCall’s.

May 1, 1961 – Wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, for “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

1963 – Gregory Peck wins a 1962 Academy Award for Best Actor for the role of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The movie was nominated for eight Oscars and won three.

1999 – Library Journal readers vote “To Kill a Mockingbird” the best novel of the 20th century.

June 2007 – Suffers a stroke.

November 5, 2007 – Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President George W. Bush.

May 2013 – Lee sues her agent, Samuel Pinkus, in federal court, alleging he had “improperly collected royalties since 2007.” The case is dismissed in September 2013.

October 2013 – Sues the Monroe County Heritage Museum in her hometown for trademark infringement, saying it is illegally using her fame for its own gain. The case is settled in June 2014.

February 3, 2015 – Lee’s publisher announces the upcoming publication of a recently rediscovered book, “Go Set a Watchman,” which Lee completed in the 1950s and then set aside in favor of “Mockingbird.” Set 20 years on from “Mockingbird,” the book follows Scout, the tomboy daughter in “Mockingbird,” as an adult.

March 2015 – The New York Times reports an anonymous complaint of elder abuse has been filed with the state of Alabama, “involving Lee’s ability to willfully consent” to the publication of the new book. Officials announce in April the investigation is closed, after “no evidence of abuse or neglect was found.”

July 14, 2015 – “Go Set a Watchman” is released.

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