“Miss Alice” is what everyone in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama called her. Her full name is ALICE FINCH LEE. Many might think her “claim to fame” is the fact that she is the sister of Harper Lee, author of “To Kill A Mockingbird”, which was voted the best book of the 20th century and winner of the 1960 Pulitzer Prize. As I was reading “The Huntsville Times” newspaper this morning, I learned Miss Alice died on November 17, 2014. I am deeply saddened to learn about the passing of this legendary lawyer and great Southern lady.
Miss Alice was her own person. She did not have to bask in her sister’s success to feed her ego. She graduated from the Birmingham School of law in 1943 and was one of Alabama’s first female attorneys. Upon completion of her law degree, she returned to Monroeville, Alabama to practice in her father’s law firm. When she questioned her father about “How are folks around here going to react to a female attorney?” His quick reply was “Well, we are soon going to find out.”
During the heated battles to bring about integration in the South, Miss Alice was a quiet champion for civil rights…in contrast to Governor George Wallace proclaiming, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” Recently, I read the book, “The Mockingbird Next Door” by Marja Mills. Mills describes in this book the role Miss Alice played in the integration of the Methodist church. Sadly, at the time, there were people in the chuch who believed in being “separate, but equal.” Miss Alice was a leader in Methodist church. When the subject of banning Blacks from membership was going to be voted on at a church conference, Miss Alice in a clever Parliamentarian move, kept the issue from being voted on. This was consistent with her personal value of “befriending the poor and helpless”, according to Wayne Flynt, Huntsville Times reporter.
Just like me, Miss Alice had a great love of history. Just like me, both Alice and Harper Lee, loved to read and had piles of books all over their house. When she was commissioned by Wayne Flynt to write the history of Monroe county, her great memory of events that happened there did not fit into his alloted word count. I am so sad this woman, who was an encyclopedia of Alabama history, is no longer with us to share her knowledge.
She was devoted to promoting women. There is an award given by her Methodist church in her honor to women committed to God and eliminating barriers to women’s leadership. Her brand of feminism was not fiery. She interacted with people with kindness, gentleness, and humility, according to Reporter Wayne Flynt. Her sister, Harper Lee, gave her this great compliment, “Alice is Atticus Finch in a skirt.”
She was still practicing law at age 100. At the time, she was the oldest practicing attorney in the State of Alabama. During her law career, she won awards from the Alabama Bar Association and was elected to the Alabama Academy of Honor. The Alabama Bar Association had an event to honor her for her 100th birthday. Of course she got the question, “What did you do to live so long?” Her simple answer was “I live day by day and I do not do anything to bring on dying.”
RIP Miss Alice. Thank you for being an inspiration to me. THANK YOU FOR A LIFE WELL LIVED!