'To Kill a Mockingbird' Author Harper Lee Buried in Alabama Hometown

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Harper Lee

The 'Go Set a Watchman' author was laid to rest in a private ceremony in Monroeville, attended by only the closest of friends and family.

MONROEVILLE, Ala. (AP) — The author of the America classic To Kill a Mockingbird was laid to rest Saturday in a private ceremony attended by only the closest of friends and family, a reflection of how she had lived.

Harper Lee, who died Friday at 89, was eulogized at a church in the small Alabama town of Monroeville, which the author used as a model for the imaginary town of Maycomb, the setting of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

A few dozen people who comprised Lee's intimate circle gathered at the First United Methodist Church to hear a eulogy by her longtime friend and history professor, Wayne Flint. Afterward, her casket was taken by a silver hearse to an adjacent cemetery where her father, A.C. Lee and sister, Alice Lee, are buried.

Flynt said he delivered a eulogy that Lee specifically requested years ago. Entitled, "Atticus Inside Ourselves," the eulogy was written by Flint for a speech that he gave in 2006 as a tribute to Lee when she won the Birmingham Pledge Foundation Award for racial justice.

Flynt said Lee liked the speech so much that she wanted him to give it as her eulogy.

"I want you to say exactly that," Flynt quoted Lee as saying at the time. "Not one thing more, and not one thing less."

"If I deviated one degree, I would hear this great booming voice from heaven, and it wouldn't be God," Flynt said in an earlier interview.

The town was appropriately somber a day after their native daughter's death.

Ann Mote, owner of the Ol' Curiosities & Book Shoppe in Monroeville, said she thinks the town will always be linked to Lee.

Jared Anton, of Hollywood, Fla., sat outside the old courthouse in Monroeville during part of a planned vacation through the South that coincided with Lee's death.

Anton said reading the book — in which attorney Atticus Finch defends a wrongly accused African-American man — was one reason he decided became a lawyer.

"It had an impact on me when I was younger. I wanted to do the right thing, to stand up to people, to defend the innocent, if you will," said Anton. "It is the greatest American novel. Name one that really has had more of an impact on Americans than that book."

Mockingbirds chirped and frolicked among blooming camellia bushes outside the courthouse on a warm Alabama morning that teased the early arrival of spring.

The courthouse was where Lee as a child, like her creation Scout Finch, would peer down from the balcony as her father tried his cases in the courtroom. The town was home to childhood friends Lee and Truman Capote, giving rise to its self-given nickname of the literary capital of the South.

"She's a part of it and always will be," said Mote.

Tributes to Lee's novel dot Monroeville. The courthouse is a museum that pays homage to her creation. There's the Mockingbird Inn on the edge of town, and a statute of children reading Mockingbird in the courthouse square.

Tickets go on sale in a week for the city's annual To Kill a Mockingbird play, said Mote. A black mourning bow donned the top of the sign at the bookstore, where a stack of hardcopy Mockingbird books sat on the counter along with a DVD of the movie.

Last summer Monroeville had a celebration for the release of Go Set a Watchman — Lee's initial draft of the story that would become Mockingbird — even though many residents had ambivalent feelings about its release.

Lee for years was largely unseen in her hometown, as she first sought privacy and then was secluded at an assisted-living home. Security guards would shoo away the inevitable mix of reporters, curious onlookers and old acquaintances who were not on her list of approved visitors.

"You would see her around, but still we would honor her wishes of being a very private person," said Tim McKenzie, chairman of the Monroe County Museum's board of directors, who also acts in the play. "The impact from now forward, I think for the next few weeks, is we'll have an influx of people in here just looking around and at some point — like when anybody passes away — at some point it just returns back to normal."

McKenzie said the best way fans can honor the author's memory is by applying the values in Mockingbird to the way they treat others.

"That story, I'm glad it's in just about all the schools now, because it's a story that everybody needs to hear," he said. "If you adhere to the values she put in that book, if everybody did, we'd be living in a much better world."