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Alice Lee dies


Alice Lee dies

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MONROEVILLE, Ala. (AP) – Alice Lee, the sister of the famous To Kill a Mockingbird author and an influential Alabama lawyer and church leader in her own right, died Monday at age 103.

Lee practiced law until a few years ago, following the footsteps of her father – the model for small-town lawyer Atticus Finch, the driving character in Mockingbird. For a time, Lee was Alabama’s oldest practicing lawyer.

Perhaps most famously, Lee helped guard the privacy of her sister Nelle Harper Lee, who in 1961 won the Pulitzer Prize for her only published novel. Requests to interview Harper Lee often landed on the desk of Alice Lee, and the answer was always a firm, but polite, “No”.

Johnson Funeral Home in Monroeville, the sisters’ long-time south Alabama home, posted an online notice saying Lee died Monday.

Retired United Methodist minister Thomas Lane Butts of Monroeville said Alice had been in declining health for a few weeks, and “her heart wore out”. Funeral arrangements were not complete, he said.

Butts said her death means all three of Harper Lee’s siblings are now deceased, and it will be a difficult time for the 88-year-old author.

“I’ve heard her say many times she didn’t know what she would do without Alice. However, the last three years, she has essentially been without her because Alice has been incapacitated,” he said.

Calls to Lee’s law practice – Barnett, Bugg, Lee and Carter, located near the courthouse that became a setting for her sister’s novel – went unanswered yesterday.

In 2011, Alabama historian Wayne Flynt said in an appreciation that “Alice Lee was a pioneer long before her sister, Nelle Harper, spread her wings in New York”.

Lee had an active real estate law practice until her retirement in 2012 and a reputation for knowing the real estate records in the Monroeville area better than anyone else, said Keith Norman, executive director of the Alabama State Bar.

“She was legendary in that part of the state,” he said.