Harper Lee Biography

Harper Lee, the renowned American author of the beloved novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, had a challenging journey towards achieving her dream of becoming a writer. Growing up with limited companionship, Lee found solace in her neighbor and friend Truman Capote, as they both faced personal struggles that fueled their passion for writing. Despite financial instability and the need to work to support herself, Lee persevered and eventually received a generous Christmas gift that allowed her to quit her job and focus on her writing. This led to the creation of her iconic novel, which continues to captivate readers to this day.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Nelle Harper Lee
  • Died At Age: 89
  • Family:
    • Father: Amasa Coleman Lee
    • Mother: Frances Cunningham Finch
    • Siblings: Alice Lee
  • Quotes By Harper Lee
  • Novelists
  • Height: 5’5″ (165 cm), 5’5″ Females
  • Died on: February 19, 2016
  • Place of death: Monroeville, Alabama, United States
  • U.S. State: Alabama
  • More Facts
  • Education: University Of Alabama
  • Awards:
    • Pulitzer Prize for Fiction – 1961
    • Presidential Medal of Freedom – 2007
    • Quill Award for Audio book – 2007

Childhood & Early Life

Harper Lee was born as Nelle Harper Lee on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama. She was the youngest of four children, with siblings named Alice, Louise, and Edwin. Lee’s childhood friend was Truman Capote, who would also become a renowned literary figure. They became friends when Capote stayed at his relatives’ house in Monroeville, where Lee lived.

Education and Early Career

After completing her schooling, Lee enrolled at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1944. She then attended the University of Alabama from 1945 to 1949, where she studied law. As part of a student exchange program, she later attended Oxford University.

Career as a Writer

Lee moved to New York six months before completing her studies at Oxford University, with the intention of becoming a writer. In the 1950s, she worked as a reservation clerk for Eastern Air Lines and British Overseas Airways to support herself financially while writing stories. During this time, she reconnected with Truman Capote and became friends with writer Michael Brown and his wife Joy Williams Brown.

In 1956, the Browns gave Lee a monetary gift that allowed her to quit her job and focus on her writing career. She was grateful for their support and worked diligently to fulfill their faith in her abilities. Her first and only novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was published in 1960 and is considered a masterpiece. The book explores the theme of racial discrimination, which Lee witnessed during her childhood in Monroeville.

Success and Later Life

“To Kill a Mockingbird” became a bestseller and received numerous awards. It was selected as the “Best Novel of the Century” by the Library Journal. Lee took a break from writing for many years but announced the release of her second novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” in 2015.

Lee’s personal life was private, and little is known about her as a person. She maintained a lifelong friendship with Truman Capote, and their friendship began before they both became successful writers. Lee passed away in her sleep on February 19, 2016, at the age of 89.


“To Kill a Mockingbird” was adapted into a film in 1962, which also received critical acclaim and won three Academy Awards. The novel and the film continue to be celebrated and have earned a place in significant lists, such as the National Film Registry and the Great American Movies of All Time list by the American Film Institute.

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