The statue of Robert E. Lee in downtown Fort Myers has long been a point of contention, and last week, it was removed out of fear of it being destroyed. Now, an important voice in the community is weighing in on the issue of whether it should be put back up or removed permanently.
“It serves as a constant reminder of a time period you know in our history that created a lot of controversy and hate and horrible vile things,” said Keri Hendry of the bust.
Hendry’s family was one of the first families to settle in Fort Myers after the Civil War. “It was a fort during the Seminole Indian wars, and then it became a Union fort during the civil war, and then once the Civil War ended, families moved in,” Hendry said.
Because of this, Hendry thinks it’s important to honor history but also heal her community, so she’s come up with a sort of middle ground: Put the bust in a museum and replace it with a ‘freedom fountain.’
“Commission a local artist to create it and have a place where people can come and sit and reflect and change it from a place of controversy and pain to a place of peace,” she said.
And one city councilman agrees. “I think it’s a great opportunity. It could be a healing process to bring us together instead of continuing to go down this road of division,” said Johnny Streets.
Fort Myers City Council will discuss the issue at their meeting on Monday.
Protests all around the country, whether peaceful or otherwise, are forcing the conversations about what these monuments and relics really represent and if they have a place in the present and future. Some cities and states are deciding to remove theirs.
Robert W. Lee IV, the fourth great-nephew of Robert E. Lee, is supporting the decision for the statute in Virginia. Lee, a reverend, said his great-great-grandfather would not want a statue of himself on display.
Lee quoted his great-great-grandfather in saying, “I think it’s wiser not to keep open the sores of the war…”