Famed Author and United Methodist Harper Lee Dead at 89

February 19, 2016
(Montgomery, AL) - Nelle Harper Lee, famed author of "To Kill A Mockingbird" passed away today, February 19, 2016, in her hometown of Monroeville, AL at the age of 89. 

Lee was the youngest of four children and was born on April 28, 1926. Her sister, Alice Lee, preceded her in death in 2014 and was one of the most active women in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. She was very involved as a lay person and was a delegate to numerous general conferences. 

Harper Lee was most recently in the news for her release of her second novel, "Go Set a Watchman." The release was a surprise to many since it had been 55 years since her last release. According to an article after her second release, long-time friend, fellow Monroeville, Alabama, resident and fellow United Methodist Dawn Wiggins Hare was not surprised that the book draws its title from the Old Testament.

“Nelle Harper is very well read in the Bible,” said Hare, top executive of the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women. “Years ago, she autographed a copy of `To Kill a Mockingbird’ for me, and quoted Scripture in the personalized autograph.”

Hare, who is current in the Congo on a United Methodist-related trip, described Lee as courageous. She said, "Imagine the strength of character, the undaunted courage, the ethical heart that a young thirty-something woman from South Alabama would have to have to write a book about racial injustice before the Civil Rights Act had even passed. Time then was different. People were different. It took clarity of vision to see injustice in what was otherwise accepted as the norm." 

Hare beautifully explained the importance of church to the Lee family by expressing, "The Lee family was, and continues to be, the backbone of The United Methodist Church in Monroeville, Alabama. The stained glass windows of the chapel are in memory of Alice and Nelle’s parents. A gift to the church that they loved, a church that helped frame their moral compasses." 

Luke Lucas, AWF Communications Specialist, recalls fond memories of meeting Ms. Lee at his family’s local bookstore while he was in high school. “My mother unexpectedly checked me out of school and wouldn’t tell me the reason. I was stunned to know that Harper Lee was at the bookstore. It was a brief meeting but she was kind, gracious, obviously accommodating and a regular southern lady.”

Lee has resided in an assisted living facility and has been a long-time member of First United Methodist Church in Monroeville, AL. Our thoughts and prayers are with the extended Lee family and close friends during this difficult time as we say farewell to a legendary author and United Methodist. 

To read coverage from the United Methodist News Service, click here

Shown in photo left to right: Alice Lee, Dawn Wiggins Hare and Harper Lee at at Alice's 95th birthday party. Photo courtesy of The Press Register/Connie Baguette.