Harper Lee, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ author, has died
Family say the death of 89-year-old ‘generous soul’ in her sleep on Friday was unexpected
Nelle Harper Lee, who won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for To Kill a Mockingbird, has died aged 89.
Her family said she was a “generous soul” and that they will “miss her dearly”. A statement from the family confirmed she had died in her sleep on Friday morning. It said: “Her passing was unexpected. She remained in good basic health until her passing. The family is in mourning and there will be a private funeral service in the upcoming days, as she had requested.
Her oldest nephew and the family spokesman, Hank Conner, said: “This is a sad day for our family. America and the world knew Harper Lee as one of the last century’s most beloved authors. We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, a devoted friend to the many good people who touched her life, and a generous soul in our community and our state. We will miss her dearly.”
The author was born April 28th, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama, the youngest of four children. She suffered a stroke in 2007.
To Kill a Mockingbird is about a child’s view of right and wrong and she waited 55 years to publish a second book with the same characters from a very different point of view.
She was Lee was 34 when the race relations novel was published. In the first book, Atticus Finch was the adored father of the young narrator Scout and a lawyer who nobly but unsuccessfully defended a black man unjustly accused of raping a white woman. But in ‘Watchman,’ an older Atticus had racial a views that left the grown-up Scout greatly disillusioned.
For decades it was thought Lee would never follow up ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and the July 2015 publication of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ was a surprising literary event - as well as a shock for devotees of ‘Mockingbird’.
Lee reportedly had written “Go Set a Watchman” first but, at the suggestion of a wise editor, set it aside to tell a tale of race in the South from the child’s point of view in the 1930s.
Lee’s father was a former newspaper editor. She studied law at the University of Alabama but six months before finishing studies she went to New York to pursue a literary career.
For many years, Lee, a shy woman with an engaging Southern drawl, lived quietly and privately, always turning down interview requests. She alternated between living in a New York apartment and Monroeville, where she shared a home with her older sister, lawyer Alice Lee.
After suffering a stroke and enduring failing vision and hearing, she spent her final years in an assisted-living facility in Monroeville.
Lee’s state of mind would become an issue when plans were announced in 2015 to publish ‘Go Set a Watchman.’ Some friends said that after the death of Alice, who handled Harper’s affairs, lawyer Tonja Carter, had manipulated Lee to approve publication. Carter had said she came across the ‘Watchman’ manuscript while doing legal work for Lee in 2014 and an investigation by Alabama state officials found there was no coercion in getting Lee’s permission to publish.
Lee’s literary output had been a matter of speculation for decades before ‘Go Set a Watchman.’ She acknowledged she could not top the Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘Mockingbird’ but friends said she had worked for years on at least two other books before abandoning them. A family friend, the Reverend Thomas Lane Butts, told an Australian interviewer
Lee had said she did not publish again because she did want to endure the pressure and publicity of another book and because she had said all that she wanted to say.