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Early Life

Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama. Her father's name was Robert E. Lee, he was a newspaper editor and proprietor and a former Southern Civil War general. He had served as state senator and was a lawyer in Monroeville. Harper was the youngest of four children. Lee graduated from Monroe County High School, and enrolled at the all-female Huntingdon College in Montgomery for one year. She then studied law in the University of Alabama, but 6 months before finishing her studies, she went to New York to persue a literary career.She lived a frugal life, traveling between her cold-water-only apartment in New York City and her family home in Alabama to care for her father. She went to work as an airline reservation clerk for British Overseas Airways and Eastern Air Lines untill 1959, when she devoted herself to writing,

To Kill a Mocking Bird

To Kill a Mockingbird was Lee's first novel. In her Hometown of Monroeville when Lee was five, trials of the suspected rape of two white women by nine black men had begun in 1931. The trial left a hard impression on Lee and this began the rough basis for the events in To Kill a Mockingbird. Her novel sold more than 30 million copies. The book was also made into a successful movie in 1962, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus. Lee was very pleased with the outcome of the movie. Her book won the Pulitzer prize in 1961 and President Johnson named Lee to the National Council of Arts in June 1966. It remains a best-seller and Lee has won many awards since then. In 1999, it was voted "Best Novel of the Century" by a poll by the Library Journal.


She returned to Monroeville and lived her life avoiding social interviews. She didn't stay in the literary career the rest of her life, but she did work on a second novel, The Long Goodbye, and in 1959 Harper accompanied Truman Capote to Holcombe, Kansas to help him with his classic non-fiction novel In Cold Blood. In Harper Lees last interview she said that she never expected any sort of success from To Kill a Mockingbird. She wrote a few magazine essays after Mockingbird was published but currently lives with her sister Louise and trys to stay out of public attention. Since she stayed out of the public eye, suspicion arose that she was working on another piece of literature. She attends luncheons for students who have written essays on her book and has accepted an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame. To honor her, the graduation seniors were given copies of To Kill a Mockingbird and held them in the air when she got her degree. On May 27, 2006, Lee wrote a letter to Oprah Winfrey talking about her love of books as a child and dedication to the written word, "Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books."