Alice Finch Lee, a pioneer for women in both the law and in the church, passed away on Nov. 17 at the age of 103. An influential Alabama lawyer who helped pave the way for women in the legal profession, Alice Lee was perhaps most instantly known to the general public as the sister of famous author Nelle Harper Lee, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for her novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The lead character in the book, lawyer Atticus Finch, was modeled on the girls’ own father, in whose footsteps Alice followed into law.
Alice Lee practiced real estate law in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala., at the firm Barnett, Bugg, Lee and Carter. She was one of the first women to become a lawyers in the state of Alabama, in 1944, and one of the few women who practiced law in the U.S. until after World War II. She was active in the practice until 2012, and at age 100, was the oldest lawyers still practicing law in Alabama. Ms. Lee also worked as her sister’s lawyer. Harper Lee was an intensely private person, refusing almost all offers for publicity following the massive success of her novel. Requests for interviews were always funneled to her sister Alice, who almost always declined them on behalf of her sister.
Alice Lee also was active in the United Methodist Church, leading the way for women in the ministry. She was the first and only female to lead the Alabama-West Florida Conference delegation at the United Methodist Church general conference. In 1992, the Conference created the Alice Lee Award in her honor. It was in recognition of women who “showed commitment to God while breaking barriers for women through leadership.” The award was both named in her honor, and appropriately, she was its first recipient.
With her passing goes a wealth of knowledge about the real estate in Monroeville. Her friend and retired United Methodist minister, Thomas Lane Butts, told the Associated Press, “Whenever there was a question in the community that no one could answer, the saying was, ‘Go ask Miss Alice.’ Her death is like the closing of a great library.” This lady led a full life and contributed greatly to her country and state.
Sources: AL.com, Associated Press
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