ABA Honors 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and Atticus Finch
The ABA’s House of Delegates paused in its consideration of the legal issues of the day on Tuesday to honor To Kill a Mockingbird, the novel by Harper Lee that was published 50 years ago.
The 561-member House praised “the positive role that the book has played in the lives of lawyers, their families and the American public,” in Resolution 10A (PDF), which passed unanimously.
The novel’s protagonist, Atticus Finch, has been a role model for lawyers for generations. Representing an African-American man accused of raping a white woman in a small Southern town in the 1930s, Finch saves his client from a lynching and destroys the accuser’s story in a vivid cross-examination. Despite his heroic efforts, his client is convicted and later killed during an attempt to escape prison.
Finch’s ultimately failed defense of an unpopular client has encouraged generations of readers to consider a career in the law.
The character is so revered that it was put in a category of its own for the list of the 25 Greatest Fictional Lawyers in the current issue of the ABA Journal. The 1962 movie version, staring Gregory Peck, was named the greatest legal movie in the Journal’s August 2008 issue.
The book won the Pulitzer Prize and the film won three Academy Awards. Harper Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the nation’s highest civilian honor—in 2007. She has also been named an honorary member of the bar in her native Alabama. To Kill a Mockingbird is the only novel the 84-year-old Lee has published. Lee is in frail health; a copy of the resolution will be presented to her by ABA officials in the coming weeks.
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