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Alice Lee, sister of ‘Mockingbird’ author, dies

November 18, 2014

MONROEVILLE, Alabama (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 helped guard the privacy of her famous younger 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.”

Alice 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.

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

Retired United Methodist minister Thomas Lane Butts of Monroeville said she had been in declining health for a few weeks, and “her heart wore out.”

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.

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.

For years, Alice Lee was active as a leader in the United Methodist Church, which has an award named in her honor that is given to women in ministry.

Earlier this year, the sisters were in the news following the publication of “The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee,” a book by Marja Mills. The former Chicago Tribune reporter moved next door to the Lee sisters in 2004 and remained there for 18 months, writing the book about her experiences with them.

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