MONROEVILLE, Ala., Feb. 19 (UPI) — Harper Lee, celebrated author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” died Friday in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala. She was 89.
Sources in the southern author’s hometown announced her death to AL.com.
The cause of Lee’s death, confirmed to The New York Times by her publisher, HarperCollins,, was not revealed, though she had a stroke in 2007.
Her novel about racial and class inequality in the American South gained renown for its warmth and humor despite its subject matter. Published in 1960, it immediately received critical and commercial success, as did a 1962 film, starring Gregory Peck as lawyer Atticus Finch.
Peck won an Academy Award for his portrayal, and Finch was declared “the greatest hero in American film” in 2003 by the American Film Institute.
Lee won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for the book, now a classic example of American literature in the Southern Gothic style and required reading by high school and college students.
Her second novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” was written in the 1950s and published in 2015. Intended as a prequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” it is acknowledged to be a first draft of her more celebrated book. News of a second novel, in which Scout, the child protagonist in the first novel, is an adult, prompted some to speculate that Lee, living in an assisted living facility with severe hearing and vision problems, may have been coerced into agreeing to publish the book.
Investigations by the Alabama Department of Human Resources and the Alabama securities Commission concluded she was competent to reach her decision on publishing.
Despite her reclusive nature and only publishing a single book in five decades, she was awarded numerous honorary degrees by colleges, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007.