THANK YOU, HARPER LEE
She was a law school dropout who inspired thousands of us to attend law school.
She told us the story of a lawyer who lost the biggest case of his career, and in the process, she gave millions of Americans a hero and lawyers a role model.
She introduced us to her friends Scout and Jem and Dill and a neighbor named Boo.
We spent a summer and a fall with her at her home in Monroeville, Alabama, or as she called it, “Maycomb.”
We sat with her in the gallery of a hot Alabama courthouse and watched a jury trial.
She taught us so many important things about life. She taught us that we can never really understand a person until we consider things from that person’s point of view, or, in her father’s words, “until you climb into their skin and walk around in it.”
She taught us to fight with our heads rather than our fists.
She taught us before we could live with other folks, we had to live with ourselves.
And she taught us about courage, again through the words of her wonderful father, that “instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand, it’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
And then after teaching us all these wonderful things, she disappeared for many years, becoming something of a recluse in her hometown of Monroeville. Her father, and Scout and Jem and Dill and Boo never left us. We can revisit them anytime, simply by picking up our well-worn copy of To Kill A Mockingbird.
Harper Lee died on February 18 at the age of 89.
I will never forget Atticus Finch’s last line in To Kill A Mockingbird. He said to Boo Radley, “Thank you for my children, Arthur.”
Well, on behalf of grateful lawyers everywhere, let me say goodbye to Harper Lee with these words: “Thank you, Harper. Thank you for sharing such wonderful children as Scout and Jem and Dill. And thank you for sharing your father. He will always be the lawyer so many of us in this wonderful profession aspire to be.”