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Fort Myers Robert E. Lee Bust Will Soon Have a New Home

Stephanie Davis

The Fort Myers City Council voted to find a new home for the Robert E. Lee bust that has been in the city since the 1960s.

Last month, the council asked the Fort Myers city manager and city attorney to find legal options they could take regarding the bust.

During a meeting held Monday, city manager Saeed Kazemi presented several options to the council:

“One of the options was to put it in a museum, the other option was to move it to the old Lee County Courthouse, another option was just to not bring it back,” Kazemi said. “Another option was the city can buy a quarter acre of land and move it there with the [Confederate] flag, in Lee County but not in the city. Another one was to move it Centennial Park.”

Councilwoman Teresa Watkins Brown, who represents Ward 1, presented the only motion debated on the issue:

“The only two options we have, I feel, is: Don’t bring it back it all, or put it in a museum,” Watkins Brown said. “If not, we are going to be going through this over, and over, and over again. We need to put this to rest, so I make a motion that those are the only two options we have.”

After council woman Terolyn Watson, Ward 1, seconded the motion, Kevin Anderson, Ward 4, spoke.

“What concerns me is I think we are all in agreement with the bust not being put back where it was. What we are not in agreement with is what happens with it afterwards," Anderson said. “And I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’m looking around thinking, ‘that motion is not going to pass,’ and we are going to do more harm tonight because what's going to happen is just like they did with the mask issue, the media’s going to make it out to be a racial issue, it's going to be made out to be made along black and white lines, when it’s not.”

Gaile Anthony, Ward 6, said several Lee County Board of County Commissioners contacted her saying they believe the county owns the bust, and she thought city council members should explore those claims further before voting on the fate of the bust.

The bust was dedicated to the City of Fort Myers and Lee County when it was first put up in 1966. For decades it was debated which of the governing bodies owns it. The Fort Myers City Attorney, Grant Alley, told the city council in August that it was his legal opinion that the city owned it.

“What I’m hanging my hat on is the legal document that was sent to Grant Alley that the county doesn’t own it,” Mayor Randy Henderson said on Monday.

Watkins Brown’s motion to either put the bust in a museum or not put it back on display passed 5-2, with council members Anthony and Anderson voting against it.

Alley and Kazemi agreed to find a museum that will take the bust and pedestal.

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