Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird, dies aged 89

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Harper Lee has died aged 89. Picture: Getty Images

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Harper Lee has died aged 89. Picture: Getty Images

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THE family of To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee, who has died aged 89, has said she was a “generous soul” they will “miss dearly”.

A statement confirmed she died in her sleep yesterday morning. It said: “Her passing was unexpected. She remained in good basic health until her passing. The family is in mourning and there will be a private funeral service in the upcoming days, as she had requested.”

We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, devoted friend and a generous soul in our community and state

Nephew Hank Conner, on behalf of Harper Lee’s family

Her oldest nephew, and family spokesman, Hank Conner, said: “This is a sad day for our family. America and the world knew Harper Lee as one of the last century’s most beloved authors.

“We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, a devoted friend to the many good people who touched her life, and a generous soul in our community and our state. We will miss her dearly.”

Ms Lee was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for To Kill A Mockingbird and it remained her only book until 2015. Set in America’s Deep South during the 1930s, it details the life of tomboy Scout, Sunday name Jean Louise Finch, and the events that unfold when her father, Atticus Finch, a Maycomb lawyer, is assigned to defend a black man on a rape charge.

• READ MORE: Obituary: Harper Lee, author

Born Nelle Harper Lee in 1926, she grew up in Monroeville, Alabama, and was the youngest of four children.

Her father, Amasa Coleman Lee, was a lawyer and it is reported that the character of Atticus was loosely based on him.

To Kill A Mockingbird went on to become a classic and Ms Lee was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

She was fiercely private and, following the success of her book, she rarely granted interviews. Last year, she stunned the world when she released a statement announcing she would be publishing a follow-up for To Kill A Mockingbird, entitled Go Set A Watchman.

The book sold more than 105,000 copies on its first day.

• READ MORE: Book review: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

Ms Lee suffered a stroke in 2007 and, with the release of her book last year, concerns were raised about the extent of her involvement in the project.

At the time, her agent was forced to respond to reports suggesting the 88-year-old was being taken advantage of over the publication of the book.

Authorities in her native Alabama closed their investigation into the issue, saying the reclusive writer had “made it quite clear” she wanted the book published.

Technology company Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, paid tribute yesterday, writing “Rest in peace, Harper Lee” and quoting her: “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

Ms Lee’s literary agent Andrew Nurnberg said knowing the author had been “not just an utter delight but an extraordinary privilege”.

Author Tony Parsons tweeted his respects: “Harper Lee said more in one book than most of us manage in a lifetime.”

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