Harper Lee, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ author, dead at 89

Updated 8:31 PM EST, Fri February 19, 2016
Caption:WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 05: 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 November 5, 2007 in Washington, DC. The Medal of Freedom is given to those who have made remarkable contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, culture, or other private or public endeavors. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Caption:WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 05: 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 November 5, 2007 in Washington, DC. The Medal of Freedom is given to those who have made remarkable contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, culture, or other private or public endeavors. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Story highlights

Harper Lee was famed for her debut novel, made into an indelible film

The author was private after the success of the book

(CNN) —  

Harper Lee, whose debut novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” immortalized her name with its story of justice and race in a small Southern town and became a classic of American literature, has died. She was 89.

Her death was confirmed Friday by the City Hall in Monroeville, Alabama, where she lived.

In a statement, Lee’s family said, “The family of Nelle Harper Lee, of Monroeville, Alabama, announced today, with great sadness, that Ms. Lee passed away in her sleep early this morning. Her passing was unexpected. She remained in good basic health until her passing. The family is in mourning and there will be a private funeral service in the upcoming days, as she had requested.”

Added nephew Hank Conner in the statement, “This is a sad day for our family. America and the world knew Harper Lee as one of the last century’s most beloved authors. We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, a devoted friend to the many good people who touched her life, and a generous soul in our community and our state. We will miss her dearly.”

Reaction from people moved by Lee’s work, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and Congressman John Lewis (both Alabama natives), actor Matthew Modine, author John Green and Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who had been jailed in Iran, was swift.