Kathy McCoy’s Monroeville: Literary Capital of Alabama brings the history of a small, Southern town to life through pictures. Monroeville is the hometown of famous writers Harper Lee and Truman Capote, among others. It’s also the inspiration for the town of Maycomb—the setting of Lee’s classic, beloved novel To Kill a Mockingbird. These and other factors contribute to Monroeville’s designation as “literary capital of Alabama.”
Ten little-known facts about Monroeville, the Literary Capital of Alabama
- Monroeville was originally called “Centerville,” but later changed its name to Monroeville after James Monroe.
- Cotton was an important crop in Monroeville, and continues to play a major role in its industry today—Monroe County is one of the top cotton producers in the state.
- In 1929, the courthouse was burned down by an arsonist who had been stealing morphine to feed his drug habit. The pharmacy was located on the first floor of the courthouse, and the arsonist burned down the entire building to hide his crimes.
- Dr. George Washington Carver visited Monroeville on February, 14 1934. He remains one of the most prominent visitors to ever speak at the courthouse.
- Harper Lee supposedly wrote part of To Kill a Mockingbird in the law office of A.C. Lee—a corner street building in which her father practiced as a title lawyer.
- Harper Lee’s father, A.C. Lee, served as editor and owner of The Monroe Journal, the local newspaper, from 1929 to 1947.
- In 1962, To Kill a Mockingbird director Robert Mulligan and star Gregory Peck walked through Monroeville to gather ideas for the film. They were accompanied by Harper Lee. When the group toured the courthouse, Mulligan stated: “The balcony is particularly beautiful, the prettiest I have ever seen. It’s a marvelous old courthouse, and we are going to get as close to it as we can.”
- Each May, the Monroe County Heritage Museum produces a theatrical version of To Kill a Mockingbird, featuring an amateur, all-local cast. The first half of the play is performed on the lawn of the courthouse, and the second half moves both cast and audience inside for the court scene.
- Truman Capote spent five years in Monroeville living with his cousins. His favorite cousin, Nancy Rumbly Faulk, “Sook,” would be one of the few stable forces in his life. She would serve as a model for several characters—kindly old ladies—in his books and short stories.
- The Old Monroe County Jail still stands today, located behind the courthouse. It was built sometime before 1880 and found its way into Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird—when Atticus stands watch over Tom Robinson one volatile evening.
Have you read Kathy McCoy’s Monroeville: Literary Capital of Alabama? What are your favorite fun facts about Monroeville? Let us know!