|Harper Lee, 1926-2016|
“Lee’s voice in the literary world will be sorely missed,” said Angela Fisher Hall, director of the Birmingham Public Library.
“The Birmingham Public Library joins fans across the world in mourning the death of author Harper Lee,” Hall said. “She was a true icon in American Literature.”
Lee’s family released a statement to the media confirming her death, saying she died in her sleep early Friday, February 19. Though Lee had a stroke several years ago, she had been in good health despite her age recently. Her death caught family and fans off guard.
“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," Hank Conner, Lee's nephew and a spokesman for the family, said in a statement Friday morning. "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."
Born Nelle Harper Lee on April 28, 1926, Lee became famous for her 1961 book, To Kill a Mockingbird. The book won accolades for its depiction of racism in a small Alabama town. It featured a young white girl named Scout and her father, lawyer Atticus Finch, who defended a black man accused of a horrible crime.
Published in July 1960 by J.B. Lippincott & Co., To Kill a Mockingbird was both a critical and commercial success, winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961. A film adaption of To Kill a Mockingbird, featuring Mary Badham as the child hero Scout, was also a big hit upon its release on Christmas Day of 1962.
Her book put Monroeville on the world map, with many Lee fans visiting from across the globe. The town holds theater productions of To Kill a Mockingbird annually. Lee, who preferred life outside the public eye, gained national attention after suffering a stroke in 2007. Last year, HarperCollins published Lee’s long-awaited follow-up to To Kill a Mockingbird. The book, Go Set a Watchman, got mixed reviews, but became an instant best seller.