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Your Father's Passin'


Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'.

--Reverend Sykes, To Kill a Mockingbird

Atticus Finch leaves the Maycomb Court House after the jury conviction of Tom Robinson in the most poignant moment in the great American classic To Kill A Mocking Bird.

Painting from the film To Kill a Mockingbird, Your Father's Passin'.
Stand Up. Your Father's Passin'. 24" x 33". 2004. Collection of Estate of John O'Quinn. O’Quinn Law Firm. Houston, TX.

Whose heart does not leap as a dejected Atticus Finch turns to leave the courtroom after the conviction of Tom Robinson by a prejudiced all white jury? The Reverend Sykes leans down to Scout as the Afro-American community, segregated upstairs on the balcony, rises in profound respect for this courageous attorney of conscience. Miss Jean Louise, Stand up! Your father's passin'.

We all love Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird and the values it inspires. But have you ever considered how the character's names are so cleverly, yet simply chosen to represent their roles within this remarkable parable?

Scout, or Miss Jean Louise, is truly our scout, who seeks the truth and guides us through the narration. Jem is the multi-faceted rough cut jewel of innocence, a gem to be polished to reveal his true potential. Dill (Truman Capote in real life) is the spice that stirs the pot and sets the story in motion. In history, Atticus was a close friend of Cicero and, like the novel's hero, was renowned for his sound judgment. He also had one son and one daughter.

Names such as these are called aptronyms and in the legal profession perhaps the most striking is that of the New York judicial philosopher and Appeals Court Judge, Learned Hand. Renowned for his clarity of legal expression and his defense of civil liberties and free speech he more than lived up to his aptly chosen name.

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Theodore Roosevelt

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