Harper Lee (1926-)
Nelle Harper Lee was born in the town of Monroeville, Alabama, now a tourist destination for those who love her Pulitzer Prize winning novel "To Kill a Mockingbird." Many of the events of her childhood appear in that book: her father, Amasa Coleman Lee, was a lawyer and inspired the character of Atticus Finch; her best friend was Truman Capote (author of "In Cold Blood" and the novella "Breakfast at Tiffany's") is represented by the character Dill. After graduating from the Monroeville high school she attended several different universities before moving to New York in 1950 and working as a reservation clerk. When she was given a year off from work, with pay, in 1956, she wrote the first draft of "To Kill a Mockingbird;" it was published by J. B. Lippincott & Co. in July of 1960. Though it was immediately a bestseller and soon became a classic in the United States for its message against racism, it is the only book ever published by Lee. For her contribution to American literature, Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007.