Changing the name of Savannah’s Eugene Talmadge Bridge has resurfaced as an issue at the State Capitol.
Changing the bridge’s name may not be an issue of re-naming it, rather officially naming it.
First, a little history on Eugene Talmadge. He served three terms as Georgia’s governor in the 1930s and ’40s. He was known for promoting white supremacy and for defending segregation and Jim Crow laws.
The original Talmadge Bridge was built in 1953. The modern day bridge was constructed in the early ’90s but the naming rights didn’t carry over.
Over the past five years, there have been a number of efforts to change the bridge’s name.
As recently as last fall, Savannah’s city council passed a resolution asking state lawmakers to consider changing the bridge’s name.
State Rep. Ron Stephens said it’s possible the bridge was never officially named after Talmadge.
He says a bill in the early ’90s to name the bridge after the former governor may not have made it out of the Senate and his staff is researching the issue right now.
“All that we are doing is we’re starting the process to see if it ever was officially done,” he said. “If it was not, then we continue to move down the path. If it was, then as far as I’m concerned, I back away.”
Most of the efforts to change the bridge’s name were with opposition from Talmadge’s descendants who have fought to keep the bridge in the family’s namesake.
Stephens said he is mostly concerned with the process.
“We don’t need to be in the business of going in and changing names,” he said. “But if it didn’t go through the process we are going to continue to investigate. If it did, then we’re going to move forward.”
Stephens said if Talmadge is not the legal name of the bridge, he doesn’t mind leading the charge to give it an actual one.
Stan Deaton is an historian with the Georgia Historical Society. He said some people are in favor of naming the bridge after Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts and was born and lived in Savannah.
Even if Low’s name is not bestowed upon the bridge, Deaton said one sentiment is strong when it comes to this issue.
“I don’t know that you’d ever get universal agreement, on who it should be named for,” he said. “But I do think there is pretty strong support for it being named for someone besides Eugene Talmadge.”