Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, from left, C-SPAN President and Chief Executive Officer Brian Lamb, author Harper Lee, and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, chat as they take part in a ceremony honoring the 2007 Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Monday, Nov. 5, 2007, in the East Room at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
Photo: Ron Edmonds
Photo: Ron Edmonds

WATCH: Reclusive Harper Lee receives Medal of Freedom

The New York Times in their obituary compared her to the actress Greta Garbo, who famously retired from acting at age 35 and never again had a public life.

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Lee, known to mostly despise the press and place a great value on her privacy, rarely made public appearances, with few notable exceptions. One of those was when she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, the same year she suffered a stroke that left her mostly blind and deaf.

From the ceremony:

"Given her legendary stature as a novelist, you may be surprised to learn that Harper Lee, early in her career, was an airline reservation clerk. Fortunately for all of us, she didn't stick to writing itineraries," President George W. Bush said. "Her beautiful book, with its grateful prose and memorable characters, became one of the biggest selling novels of the 20th century ... We're moved by the story of a man falsely accused with old prejudice massed against him and an old sense of honor that rises to his defense. We learn that courage can be a solitary business."

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