Facts About SWFL

Robert E. Lee Portrait Hanging in the Old Lee County Courthouse

Ever wondered why the portrait of Robert E. Lee is hanging in the Old Lee County Courthouse?

The portrait of Robert E. Lee has been hanging in the old county courthouse for years, but it’s not the only interesting artifact in the room it’s hanging.

A portrait of Confederate soldier Robert E. Lee has been hanging in the Lee County commission chambers for several years… Why? Well To know why this portrait came to Forty Myers you have to know a little bit of SWFL history.

In the 1820’s there was no Lee County. It was Monroe county. This county expanded from the keys to what is known today as the Lee/Charlotte border. In 1887 residents of the area petition state government to become the 41st county. The new county needed a new name and even though in 1887 which was about 25 years after the civil war ended Robert E. Lee was still considered a hero in the area. When the name Lee was proposed, it was the most popular, and residents voted to name the new county after the Confederate soldier.

It wasn’t until 1929 when commissioners at the time noticed that even though the county was named after Robert E. Lee there was nothing in the county of the Confederate soldier. Local Lee County officials got in touch with the Virginia government to get some artifacts of Robert E. Lee, and that’s when the portrait was commissioned.

While doing some research on the courthouse, the portrait is not the most interesting thing in the room. Right across the portrait, there is a balcony. From 1916 to 1963 the sole purpose of this balcony was to discriminate people of color. If you were black, you would sit on the balcony, and if you were white, you would sit at the bottom.

The portrait was at the center of controversy towards the end of 2017 but has since died down. Residents wanted the portrait taken down, but instead of taking the portrait down there was a proposal of changing the Confederate soldier attire. The confederate uniform would be replaced with business attire clothing.