SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — The iconic Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge that spans the Savannah River and serves as a backdrop for many tourist photos could soon have a new name.
Support to remove the name of the former Georgia governor is coming from city hall and from the Chatham County delegation in the General Assembly.
Republican Rep. Ron Stephens of Savannah said there is pretty much a consensus among legislators to change the name to Savannah Bridge or Savannah River Bridge. He said the delegation expects to prepare legislation soon to change the name.
Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson told the Savannah Morning News that she favors getting Talmadge’s name off the bridge, which she always calls “the new bridge.”
“I’ve never referred to it as the Talmadge Bridge because that’s an insult to the African-American community. I came up through the civil rights era, and I know how we were referred to by Talmadge.”
Talmadge, a supporter of segregation, served two two-year terms as governor from 1993 to 1937 and a third term from 1941 to 1943. He was elected to a fourth term in 1946, but died before taking office.
The nearly two-mile bridge stands 185 feet above the Savannah River. It was completed in 1991 at a cost of $71 million. Debate over its name has been going on since the opening, with some in Savannah believing political forces elsewhere got Talmadge’s name put on the bridge. Even back then, some in the coastal city wanted to call it “the Great Savannah Bridge.”
“What I’ve been telling people on this issue is that I’m ABT — Anybody But Talmadge,” said Stan Deaton, senior historian at the Georgia Historical Society.
Deaton has suggested Georgia founder James Edward Oglethorpe. “There are plenty of other people who speak to Georgia’s past better than he does, who represent all of us better,” he said.
Democratic Rep. J. Craig Gordon of Savannah said everybody in the legislative delegation agrees the bridge’s name should be changed. The challenge, he said, is preparing a bill that can pass in the short time remaining in the current session.
“We’ve only got 18 days left, but I feel by all of us working together, we can make it happen,” he told the newspaper.
Information from: Savannah Morning News.