"Atticus Finch was further enshrined in the cultural canon through Gregory Peck's portrayal in the Oscar winning 1962 film. Parents named their children after him. Law professors assigned the book in ethics class. The Alabama Law Association erected a monument to him in Monroeville, Ms. Lee's hometown." (http://www.wsj.com/articles/harper-lees-father-the-inspiration-for-atticus-finch-changed-his-segregation-views-1436670661)
The image of Gregory Peck's character, Atticus Finch, outside an Alabama jail, confronting an angry mob that wants to lynch the black man whom he represents, is forever etched on the memory of those who saw the movie To Kill a Mockingbird. The scene is not that far off the mark. In 1934, Mockingbird author Harper Lee's father, whom she based Atticus on, confronted KKK members in the street, exchanging words with the leader.
Amasa Coleman Lee, born in Alabama in 1880, attended law school and set up a practice in Monroeville. He married Frances Finch who gave birth to Nelle Harper Lee. Mr. Lee adored his daughter and tended to indulge her.
Harper admired her father and the stand that he took on social issues. IN 1919, Mr. Lee defended two black men charged with a botched robbery and murder. Even so, the two men were convicted and hanged. He continued to defend blacks in the 1920's and 1930's, preaching: "Equal rights for all, special privileges for none."
However, in 1954, with the victory for civil rights in Brown vs Board of Education, Mr. Lee resisted school integration. He was, nonetheless, part of the Deep South establishment. Harper was disappointed that her father was agreeing with the status quo. Her childhood view of him as this larger than life character who fought for the underdog was shattered.
However, by the late 1950's, when Harper was working on her manuscript for To Kill a Mockingbird, her father had a change of heart. He talked about voting rights for blacks. The book was published in 1960, selling 2.5 million copies in the first year and remaining on the bestseller list for almost two years.
In 1962, the movie debuted in theatres. "Atticus Finch was further enshrined in the cultural canon through Gregory Peck's portrayal in the Oscar winning 1962 film. Parents named their children after him. Law professors assigned the book in ethics class. The Alabama Law Association erected a monument to him in Monroeville, Ms. Lee's hometown."
The same year, the man who inspired the character passed away. His daughter outlived him by decades. Her other book, Go Set a Watchman, which shed some light on her father's initial resistance to integration, was published last month.