One of the chosen six was Speed S. Menefee, appointed Mayor. Born on April 2, 1878 in Lexington, Kentucky, he settled in Naples in 1908.
His mother, Elizabeth Williamson Speed, was a descendant of John Speed, the Fifteenth Century English historian and cartographer whose maps of the countries of the world drawn in the late 1590s were accurate 200 years later. From her family he inherited his disposition. Of the Speeds it was said “They have stood well in every community where they have lived, and by industry and integrity, have made the name respected everywhere, so that all who bear it have a good passport and are presumed to be worthy. Some of the family have achieved more than ordinary distinction, but ostentation is unknown.”
His father, Richard Jouett Menefee, was a businessman and the son of the great statesman of Kentucky, the Honorable Richard Hickman Menefee, the skilled attorney who had the distinction of having won five consecutive cases in courtroom battles with opposing attorney the great Henry Clay.
Evidence of Speed Menefee’s skill as an artist surfaced during his boyhood years, when it was remarked that he would someday paint as well as Kentucky’s famous portrait artist Oliver Frazier, a trait he inherited from Mathew H. Jouett, his great grandfather’s son, who was as renowned in Kentucky as Rubens was in Flanders.
Before relocating to Naples in 1908, Speed Menefee studied art at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and spent several years painting in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, Southern Spain and North Africa.
He trained for five years under an artist who became one of the most renowned in the world, Kentucky-born Frank Duvenek. Among the galleries where his paintings were displayed was Louisville’s renown Klauber Gallery. His portrait of political orator Richard H. Menefee was hung in the Kentucky Hall of Fame at the Kentucky Capitol, an accomplishment of which Speed Menefee never spoke.
In Naples, the thousands of birds and blooms and myriad variations of sunlight streaming through the profuse vegetation inspired him to paint daily. He loved children and taught the few who lived in Naples at the time how to paint, not for any reason, he mused, other than to keep them occupied.
Upon arriving in Naples in 1908, Menefee resided briefly at the home of newly appointed Naples Postmaster Captain Charles Stewart, who lived in a cottage on the east side of the Napes Post Office at the foot of the Naples Pier.