A descendant of Robert E. Lee, recluse writer Nelle Harper Lee (1926-2016) was born on this day in the small town of Monroeville Alabama, the youngest of four children and a neighbor to writer Truman Capote.
"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing," she observed in To Kill a Mockingbird, her first and only novel. The controversial masterpiece was set in the South during the Depression and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961.
"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us," she explained. "That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
Lee spent over five years rewriting the classic novel which celebrated the heroism of protagonist Atticus Finch, a lawyer appointed to defend an innocent African American on a rape charge. Told through the eyes of the attorney's young daughter, the story examined racism and left an indelible mark on American culture.
"The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience," Lee wrote.
To Kill a Mockingbird was made into a memorable and critically-acclaimed film in 1962 and won three Oscars for Best Direction, Set Decoration, and Best Actor to Gregory Peck for his compassionate performance as Finch. In 1969, the book was adapted for the stage throughout the U.S. and in England.
"With love, all things are possible," Lee once wrote. "Love restores."
Every person has a point of view. Honor it.