Atticus Finch is a descendant of an old local family in Maycomb, Alabama. The setting is the 1930s. He is the father of Scout and Jem, and he is a widower. What really sets him apart is his views. He is one of the few people in the town that is relatively unaffected by racism. This is why he agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who is charged with raping a white woman.
This step to help Tom Robinson is a heroic one because the town is filled with hatred towards black people. Some people in the town even want to harm Atticus, even though he is respected. At one point, his children are in danger. In the end, Atticus is not successful in defending Tom, but the point is that he tries to stand up for what is right.
Along the way Atticus's character shines as we learn that he also helps those in need - blacks, whites, poor, and well-off. Atticus really is the moral backbone of the novel.
During the trial, his character shines even more. He is polite, kind, and respectful to all, even Bob Ewell.
In the end, he is a model lawyer, father, and citizen.