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Horton Foote and Harper Lee

Horton Foote, Harper Lee and director Robert Mulligan at the screening of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962. Photo from the Horton Foote papers, DeGolyer Library.

“You will never know the delicious cool sanity of your prose because you just write it, you don’t wallow in it as I do.” Harper Lee penned those words to Horton Foote on June 26, 1999, more than 30 years into a friendship that started when he wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay based on her literary classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Rare correspondence from Lee is among the treasures included in the Horton Foote papers, acquired by the DeGolyer Library in 1991.

When Lee died on February 19, DeGolyer Director Russell L. Martin and Cynthia Franco, special collections librarian who curates the papers, helped local media paint a more complete picture of the renowned novelist, who shied away from publicity. The letters – including a threepage typed missive from Lee to Oprah Winfrey, written in 2006 – were published by The Dallas Morning News online, along with a video of Franco reading Lee’s words. CBS 11 News also mentioned the letters in its coverage of the writer’s passing.