Push to bring Robert E. Lee bust back to downtown Fort Myers

Reporter: Gail Levy Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
robert e lee bust
Credit: WINK News

There’s a renewed push to bring back a confederate general’s statue. A group of activists isn’t only calling to bring the Robert E. Lee bust back, but they want it to stand in its original place.

The memorial in honor of the confederate general has been a topic of controversy in Fort Myers for years. The site has been empty since the summer of 2020 when the bust of Lee was taken down ahead of social justice protests then later removed for good.

The City of Fort Myers has already approved and spent a lot of money to get rid of the statue so will it really be back?

The mayor told WINK News he couldn’t see that happening. That isn’t what the Coalition to Restore the Lee Memorial wanted to hear.

The Robert E. Lee bust is gone, and so is the pedestal it rested on. But the fight regarding both is still here.

David Mcallister is with Save Southern Heritage. “We’re announcing today that a coalition has been formed to advocate for the restoration of the county namesake memorial,” said McAllister.

McAllister and some veteran and pro history groups created this coalition. Their goal is to return the Robert E. Lee bust to its original spot along Monroe Street in downtown Fort Myers.

“It’s time to honor Lee in Lee and to restore the memorial,” McAllister said.

But, honoring Lee in Lee is a painful thought for Lee County NAACP president James Muwakkil. “He stood for inequality, he stood for lynching, he stood for prosperation, he stood for unequal pay,” Muwakkil said.

HK Edgerton says he’s not sure if Muwakkil’s view of Lee in history is well-placed. “He told his people’ get yourself educated,’ ‘buy yourself some land,’ ‘keep your faith in our Lord and Master Jesus Christ’ and ‘beyond all else put your trust only in the southern white man,'” said Edgerton.

“That’s trying to keep us attached to history. That was not history for us. It was a nightmare for us,” said Muwakkil.

For now, the bust is with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the pedestal belongs to the city. Right now, Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson said he’s trying to rehome that pedestal.

“We’ve had some very preliminary conversations with Lee County, as well as IMAG, so there’s several options out there. We just need to find out what’s the most suitable,” said Anderson.

Edgerton is a noted member of the Sons of Confederate veterans because of his race. He once served as the president of the NAACP in Asheville, North Carolina. Now, he travels around in support of Confederate heritage and the Confederate Flag.

WINK News asked the coalition why not just put it on a piece of private property? They said that’s one option they’re looking into.

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