Harper Lee, author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ dies at age 89

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Pulitzer Prize winner and "To Kill A Mockingbird" author Harper Lee smiles before receiving the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House on Nov. 5, 2007. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

MONROEVILLE, Ala. — Harper Lee, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961 for her book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” has died at the age of 89.

The news was first reported by AL.com and was confirmed by HarperCollins Publishers. Monroeville Mayor Mike Kennedy also confirmed the news to WHNT.

Spencer Madrie, an employee at Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe in Monroeville, said friends would come into the book shop frequently and purchase books for Lee, who was living at a local nursing home.

Madrie said he was told Lee died about 4 a.m. Friday. The nursing home where Lee lived said it is not issuing a statement at this time.

To Kill a Mockingbird,” which Lee wrote after she moved to New York, made her name. The book, published in 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into a beloved 1962 film. Gregory Peck won the Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of Atticus Finch.

It’s a mainstay of high school reading lists and, as of 2006, had sold more than 30 million copies.

Lee, who returned to Monroeville several years ago, remembers being caught off-guard by its overwhelming success.

“I never expected any sort of success with ‘Mockingbird.’ I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement,” Lee told Newsquist in 1964.

“Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.”

Lee was honored by President George W. Bush in 2007 with the Presidential Medal Of Freedom and by President Barack Obama in 2010 the National Medal of Arts for her contributions to literature.

Last year, Lee stunned the literary world by publishing her second book, “Go Set a Watchman,” which she completed in the 1950s and then set aside in favor of “Mockingbird.”

The book follows Scout, the little girl of “Mockingbird,” as an adult. The manuscript was rediscovered in 2014, Lee said in a statement from her publisher, Harper.

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