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Profile of the Day: Harper Lee

On this day in 1926, author Harper Lee was born. Today Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is one of the mostly widely read books in the United States.

Image: Harper Lee receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush / NARA

She was born Nelle Harper Lee on April 28, 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama to Amasa Coleman Lee, a lawyer, and Frances Cunningham Finch. The youngest of four children, Lee received the middle name “Harper” to honor the pediatrician who saved the life of her sister Louise. Although she used the pen name “Harper Lee,” she went by “Nelle” in her everyday life. The name was her grandmother’s name spelled backwards.

In 1960, Lee published her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Much of the novel’s plot and characters were inspired by her own experiences growing up in Monroeville. The novel’s young narrator, Scout, was based on herself and the character of Atticus Finch was modeled after her own father. A classic of modern American literature, the novel was an immediate success with both critics and the public. A year after its publication, Lee was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

In 2007, she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.

For many years, To Kill a Mockingbird remained the only book she ever published until the 2015 publication of Go Set a Watchman. The controversial book was published as a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, although it was later confirmed to be a first draft of the book.

Lee died on February 19, 2016 at the age of 89.

Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird? Explore Harper Lee’s family tree and share your connection to the author.

View Harper Lee’s Geni Profile

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