Amasa Coleman Lee
|Member of the Alabama House of Representatives|
from the Monroe County district
Amasa Coleman Lee (July 19, 1880 - April 15, 1962) was an American newspaper editor, politician, and lawyer.
Lee was born in Georgiana, Butler County, Alabama in 1880 to Cader A. Lee and his wife, the former Theodosia Windham. He was raised on a farm in or near Chipley, Washington County, Florida due south of Butler County. Though he had few years of formal education (and none at a college), Lee passed the Alabama teacher's exam, and moved to Monroe County, Alabama to teach.
On 22nd June, 1910, Lee married Frances Cunningham Finch (1888-1951), the daughter of a local postmaster in Monroe County, the unincorporated community of Finchburg being named after an ancestor. They had three daughters, Alice Finch Lee (1911-2014), Frances Lee Conner (1916-2009) and Harper Lee (1926-2016), and a son, Major Edwin Coleman Lee (1920-1951). His eldest daughter succeeded to his legal practice, and his youngest daughter wrote the controversial and award-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird. Atticus Finch, the lawyer character in the novel, is reputedly based, at least in part, on Amasa Coleman Lee.
In addition to teaching school, A.C. Lee became a clerk/bookkeeper at the Flat Creek sawmill in Finchburg. In 1912 the Lees moved to Monroeville, the county seat, which had about 1300 residents in the 1930s. He managed a small logging railroad line in nearby Manistee, the Manistee & Repton Railway, for a law firm, then called Barnett & Bugg.
Legal and political career
In 1915, having read law under the guidance of the Barnett & Bugg lawyers, Lee passed the Alabama bar exam and began to practice law, mainly in Monroe County. When he became a partner, the firm was renamed Barnett, Bugg & Lee. In 1929, Lee bought the Monroe Journal, which he would own and edit until 1947. As a lawyer, Lee represented various individuals in Monroe and surrounding counties, as well as the railway. Before Lee concentrated on real estate title legal work, he once defended two black men accused of murdering a white storekeeper. Both clients, a father and son, were hanged.
From 1927 to 1939, Lee won election three times to four-year terms representing Monroe County part-time in the Alabama House of Representatives. After World War II, he practiced law with his eldest daughter Alice and hoped to also bring in his youngest daughter Nelle Harper Lee and rename the firm "A.C. Lee and Daughters", but that dream never materialized. After traveling in Europe, Nelle Harper Lee moved to New York City to become a writer, following the track of her friend Truman Capote. Within six weeks in 1951, after his youngest daughter moved to New York, Lee lost both his wife (who long suffered fragile health died of cardiac arrest days after receiving a cancer diagnosis) and son (a pilot who succumbed to an aneurysm in his barracks), so he sold the family home and moved into a smaller house with his daughter (and business partner) Alice.
Death and legacy
A.C. Lee grew proud of his youngest daughter's success with To Kill a Mockingbird, even if she never joined the family law firm, and in his final years often signed copies of his daughter's novel as "Atticus Finch," the central character. Nonetheless, he had suffered bouts of debilitating fatigue following the loss of his wife and son. Lee died in Monroeville, Alabama on Palm Sunday, 1962. The following year Gregory Peck carried Lee's pocket watch as he accepted an Academy Award for portraying Atticus Finch in the movie version.
- Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee. Knopf. 2019. ISBN 9781101947869. pp. 153-154
- ancestry.com library edition
- 'Harper Lee's Father, Inspiration for Atticus Finch, Changed His Views on Segregation,' The Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Maloney and Laura Stevens, 11 July 2015
- Cep, p. 154
- 'Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee,' Charles J. Shields, Macmillan: 2007, pg. 35-47
- Cep. p. 154
- Charles J. Shields (2014). I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee. Henry Holt and Company (BYR). p. 7. ISBN 978-1-4668-6752-9.
- Shields, Charles J. (2006). Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. Henry Holt and Co.
- Roster of the Alabama House of Representatives since 1922
- Cep pp. 162-163
- Cep pp. 167-169
- Cep p. 199
- 'Harper Lee's Father Dies,' The Tuscaloosa News (Alabama), 16 April 1962, pg. 2
- article on To Kill A Mockingbird
- article on Harper Lee and To Kill A Mockingbird
- Byron Giddens-White. The Story Behind "To Kill A Mockingbird". (Chicago: Hindemann Library, 2007) p. 6