The Woodlawn Section of Fort Myers Cemetery is the older of the two sections used solely for black interment. It was built in 1915. It is around five acres in size and lies across the street from the newer Oakridge Section. Both black sections were placed a significant distance from the once exclusively-white cemetery to the north. The black sections’ random location, lack of identification and limited access was typical of black cemeteries in segregated communities. Notable figures in Fort Myers black community are buried here. Mrs. Ellen Summerall Tillis, Caucasian wife of Fort Myers’ first black settler Nelson Tillis, is interred as probably the only white person in this section of the Cemetery because of her marriage to a black man. Dr. Ella Piper, a local black philanthropist and podiatrist, can be found in the Woodlawn Section. The family plot includes Dr. Piper, her mother, Sarah Williams, and other members of her nuclear family. Sarah Williams held annual Christmas tree parties for the children of Dunbar from 1915 until her death in 1936, when Dr. Piper carried on her mother’s tradition. Dr. Piper was also instrumental in helping young people get scholarships to Tuskegee College, and her heart particularly went out to the underprivileged, handicapped, and elderly of the community. The Woodlawn Section of the Fort Myers Cemetery is the final resting place of many strong and courageous black Dunbar community members.
The Woodlawn Section of the Fort Myers Cemetery is open during daylight hours. Enter from Henderson Street. Special thanks to our partner, the City of Fort Myers. More information about the Woodlawn Section of the Fort Myers Cemetery may be found here.