Harper Lee, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was born and raised in Monroeville, AL. The fictional town of Maycomb is modeled on Monroeville. Atticus Finch, the central character in To Kill a Mockingbird, is a lawyer and resident of Maycomb and the father of “Jem” and “Scout”. In 2003, Atticus Finch, as portrayed by Gregory Peck in the 1962 film adaptation, was voted by the American Film Institute to be the greatest hero in American film.
Located on the northeast side of the old courthouse at downtown Monroeville is a monument in honor of Atticus Finch, that was erected in 1997 by the Alabama Bar Association. The monument presents Atticus Finch as the ideal model for nondiscriminatory justice.
Following is the inscription on the monument:
ATTICUS FINCH: LAWYER – HERO,
“Lawyers, I suppose, were children once.” These words of Charles Lamb are the epigraph to Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, a novel about childhood and about a great and noble lawyer, Atticus Finch. The legal profession has in Atticus Finch, a lawyer-hero who knows how to see and to tell the truth, knowing the price the community, which Atticus loves, will pay for that truth. The legal profession has in Atticus Finch, a lawyer-hero who knows how to use power and advantage for moral purposes, and who is willing to stand alone as the conscience of the community. The legal community has in Atticus Finch, a lawyer-hero who possesses the knowledge and experience of a man, strengthened by untainted insight of a child.
Children are the original and universal people of the world; it is only when they are educated into hatreds and depravities that children become the bigots, the cynics, the greedy, and the intolerant, and it is then that “there hath passed away a glory from the earth.” Atticus Finch challenges the legal profession to shift the paradigm and make the child the father of the man in dealing with the basic conflicts and struggles that permeate moral existence.
Symbolically, it is the legal profession that now sits in the jury box as Atticus Finch concludes his argument to the jury; “In the name of God, do your duty.”