Amasa Coleman Lee was the father of Harper Lee, author of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman.  He is acknowledged to be the model upon which the character, Atticus Finch, was based.  He was born in Georgiana, Alabama, and lived on a farm near Tripoli, Florida.  In 1915, he passed the Alabama Bar exam and began practicing law.  He also served in the Alabama Legislature from 1927 to 1939.

A. C. Lee and Atticus Finch share certain characteristics.  According to Talmage Boston, both were small town lawyers in Alabama who served in the state legislature, both had children who called them by their first name, and both were effectively single parent mentors to their children.  Also, according to Mr. Boston

In 1919, after he had practiced law for only four years, A. C. Lee was appointed by the district judge in Monroeville, Alabama, to serve as the lawyer for two black men accused of murdering a white storekeeper.  Amasa Lee gave the case his best effort, but the all white jury returned a “guilty” verdict and both defendants were hanged.[1]

In 2003, The American Film Institute quoted Atticus Finch, as portrayed by Gregory Peck in the 1962 film adaptation as the greatest hero in American film.

Although To Kill a Mockingbird was published first, Go Set a Watchman was its earlier variant.  Essentially, Watchman is the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Watchman characterizes Atticus as a segregationist.  This aspect of his character was dropped in To Kill a Mockingbird.  The Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird has inspired many persons, including the author of this piece.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney



[1] Boston, Talmage (June 2010) Who Was Atticus Finch Texas Bar Journal 73 (6:484-485).