An Alabama native, Lee moved to New York City in 1948 with the dream of being a writer. For about eight years, she worked as an airline reservationist at Eastern Airlines.
“Lee’s fortunes began to improve at the end of 1956 when her friends Michael and Joy Williams Brown gave Nelle, as those close to Lee call her, a generous Christmas gift: enough money to spend a year writing. That’s when she completed the manuscript for Go Set a Watchman. The novel helped her find an agent, who got her signed to the publisher J.B. Lippincott. But Go Set a Watchman was never released. Instead, Lee’s editor urged her to expand on the flashback passages set during Scout’s childhood. Lee spent more than two years writing and rewriting the novel that became known as To Kill a Mockingbird.”
When it was published in 1960, To Kill A Mockingbird found immediate success. Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction the following year, and the novel inspired a film adaptation that came out in 1962, starring Mary Badham as Scout and Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.
That film was also a smashing success, garnering numerous Academy Award nominations and several wins.
Lee was famous for avoiding the public eye – one of the last extensive interviews she gave took place in 1964, when she spoke to New York radio station WQXR. Here’s some of what she said:
“Well, my objectives are very limited. I think I want to do the best I can with the talent that God gave me, I suppose. I would like to be the chronicler of something that I think is going down the drain very swiftly, and that is small-town, middle-class Southern life. There is something universal in it. Something decent to be said for it, and something to lament, once it goes, in its passing. In other words, all I want to be is the Jane Austen of South Alabama.”
In that same conversation, Lee also spoke of how she had attended law school, but: “I didn’t graduate. I left the university one semester before I’d have gotten my degree.”
In 2007, Lee was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and she was honored with a National Medal of Arts in 2010.
Here’s how news website AL.com describes Lee’s final years:
“Harper Lee suffered a stroke in 2007, recovered and resumed her life in the hometown where she spent many of her 89 years. A guardedly private individual, Lee was respected and protected by residents of the town that displays Mockingbird-themed murals and each year stages theatrical productions of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“Lee returned to Monroeville for good once her sister Alice became ill and needed help. She’d eat breakfast each morning at the same fast-food place, and could later be seen picking up Alice from the law firm founded by their father.”
Article Appeared @http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/harper-lee-author-kill-mockingbird-dies-age-89-114941