It’s a bridge that connects two communities from two separate states. But the Talmadge Bridge which crosses from the South Carolina Lowcountry to Georgia’s Hostess City of Savannah has become controversial not for the crossing but for the name of the bridge,.
The bridge is named after Eugene Talmadge, a governor of the Peach State in the 30’s and 40’s and a man who by all accounts was a segregationist and proud of it.
But now times have changed and in recent years, more locals in Savannah have continuously brought up the name on the bridge and saying it should be changed. Several months ago, the Savannah City Council agreed, passing a resolution to ask the state for its cooperation. That’s because state lawmakers must approve any name change on the state owned bridge.
Enter the Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia. The organization recently proposed naming the bridge after Savannah native and founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low. “Because Juliette Low has left such an amazing legacy for the entire world,” says Sue Else, the CEO of Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia. “Juliette Low was a pioneer in so many ways and one of her first sort of criteria was that all girls could be girl scouts.”
At the group’s recent national convention in Ohio, up to ten thousand Girl Scouts signed petitions supporting naming the bridge after the founder of their beloved organization.
Else says that Low started the first Girl Scout troop in Savannah in 1912 with 18 girls. From the first day, she welcomed “all girls” including those of color and those of the Jewish faith.
“Savannah is a Hostess community,” Else said. “We need to be welcoming to everyone and I think with Low’s legacy we would definitely be welcoming.”
The bridge now is not considered “welcoming” by some local residents who say the name represents the past.
15 year old Sydnie Roberds has been a Girl Scout since the age of six. “I think it’s really important that it could be named after a woman,” she said. “Juliette Gordon Low was so important to Girl Scouts and to the community that a name change would show how proud we are of our Savannah history,” she told us. “It would be really empowering and show all the changes we’re making in society.”
State Representative Ron Stephens from Savannah says he’ll be happy to meet with Girl Scouts who plan to visit the Atlanta Statehouse on February 6. Stephens even indicated he will try to introduce a bill that day to “change the name of the bridge to honor Low.”
But Stephens predicts that any bill to change the name will be difficult to pass. He says he wants to support city leaders who passed the resolution and move toward whatever is regarded as “progressive.” He told us he’s prepared to introduce a number of bills this year with names that might be considered.