Monroeville: the literary capital of Alabama and home to Nelle Harper Lee

By Lorinda VallsLorinda 4

It was a beautiful sunny Saturday driving thru Alabama, passing the cotton fields with their fluffy white flowers; much different from the snow I had left behind on Long Island, Maine. Our destination was Monroeville, Alabama, “The literary capital of Alabama” – proud to call itself that because of well-known , respected and all around good citizen Nelle Harper Lee, known for writing To Kill a Mockingbird and most recently Go Set a Watchman . She enjoyed her town, close friends family, community events, writing and golfing; what she didn’t like was all the Media, reporters, and questions that come from writing a best selling and controversial, to some, book. Her book was loosely based about Monroeville growing up with her brother and close friend Truman Capote and her visits to the Monroe County Court House to sit in the balcony at the courthouse and watch her father practice law. The themes of the book cover racial equality , rape, and childhood innocence.

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Nelle Harper Lee died at the age of 89 on the Friday that we were in Alabama. We were saddened by the news. It was only on our drive that we heard on the radio that she was to be buried Saturday in a private funeral ceremony. We wondered if the museum would be opened but we continued on our journey. While parking the car at the Monroe County Courthouse and Museum I noticed black bows on the Courthouse doors, flowers on the steps, and a few people dressed in black and, wouldn’t you know it, a reporter. Whatever was said between those in black and the reporter, it was quick and off she went. Probably “No Comment. ” I think Harper Lee would approve. We were able to get into the museum and and courthouse and see 2 permanent exhibits: Harper Lee : In her Own Words, and Truman Capote : A Childhood in Monroeville. Harper Lee and Truman Capote lived next door to each other as children and shared a love for reading and writing stories about people in their town. Our tour continued with a visit to the Courtroom. It is the model for the courtroom scene from To Kill a Mockingbird – completely set up with Judge’s bench, attorney’s tables, chairs, jury box and the view from balcony which gives you a bird’s eye view of the court house. I felt that for a minute I was with Harper Lee watching court in session. Moments later I was on the floor of the courtroom walking around, and as I approached the witness stand and judges bench there were flowers, a picture of Harper Lee, and a frame with a quote from To Kill a Mockingbird where Atticus says to Jem “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin. But you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what You rarely win- but sometimes you do.” MS. LEE WON!! “She died clean as the mountain air. ” At 1:30 that afternoon on a Saturday at the Methodist church in Monroeville, AL, Nelle Harper Lee was buried with family and a few friends present and a world full of people bidding her farewell.

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5 thoughts on “Monroeville: the literary capital of Alabama and home to Nelle Harper Lee”

  1. Thanks for this blog. What a great idea. This story by Lorinda is fascinating. I learned new pieces of information and reminisced in the old. What an experience to be there that day. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Linda! I’m always looking for guest bloggers if you have anything literary you’d like to share…

  2. Great article, Lorinda. Blog is a wonderful idea. We’ll have to make sure lots of people know about it.

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