Monroeville mourns demise of beloved resident, Harper Lee

Atmosphere in legendary writer’s hometown remains melancholic


News Desk/reuters February 20, 2016
Harper Lee is widely considered one of the greatest American novelists of all time. PHOTO: FILE

News of Harper Lee’s death has left the residents of her hometown deeply aggrieved. The author of the classic American novel To Kill a Mockingbird was born and raised in Monroeville, Alabama. The town even served as the inspiration behind the fictional Maycomb County, where much of the novel takes place. It eventually took on aspects of To Kill a Mockingbird, like a theme park with statues of the main characters, murals of important scenes, a museum display and tours of the courtroom.

“You wish somebody like Lee could go on forever and be this lifelong legend,” said Spencer Madrie, owner of the Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe in the town. “You don’t ever consider somebody like that passing, even though her legacy will last for generations after,” he added.

Lee’s state of mind became an issue last year, when plans were announced to publish the sequel Go Set a Watchman arose. Some friends said that after the death of her sister Alice, who handled Lee’s affairs, lawyer Carter had manipulated her to approve publication. According to the Reverend Thomas Lane Butts, a family friend of Lee’s, the Pulitzer Prize-winner had not wished to publish again, as she did not want to endure the pressure and publicity of another book and because she had said all that she wanted to say.

Despite her private nature, Lee regularly attended an annual luncheon at the University of Alabama to meet the winners of a high school essay contest on the subject of her book, an estimated 30 million copies of which have been sold worldwide. She was a student of law at the University herself but, six months before finishing her studies, moved to New York to pursue a literary career instead.

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

In November 2007, Lee was invited to the White House to accept a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush, who, at the time, called her book “a gift to the entire world.” Bush said during a statement that he and his wife, Laura Bush, a former librarian, mourned Lee. “Harper Lee was ahead of her time and her masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird prodded America to catch up with her. Laura and I are grateful for Harper Lee and her matchless contributions to humanity and to the character of our country.” he said. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “Lee had a way of telling stories that does have an influence and resonates with so many Americans.”

News of Lee’s demise spread widely on social media and tributes poured in from well-known figures, such CEO of Apple, Tim Cook who quoted the author in a tweet. “Rest in peace, Harper Lee,” he posted. “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” 

Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2016.

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