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18:18, 04 February 2018

What It Might Take to Strike a Segregationist’s Name From a Georgia Bridge: Hundreds of Girl Scouts


What It May possibly Take to Strike a Segregationist’s Name From a Georgia Bridge: Hundreds of Girl Scouts

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SAVANNAH, Ga. — The bridge that carries Highway 17 into Savannah is tough to miss: Its H-shaped towers are amongst the tallest structures for miles. But numerous individuals in the city would like in no way to lay eyes again on the green and white indicators that say the span honors the segregationist former Gov. Eugene Talmadge.

“We would by no means take the worst components of his speeches and place them up on massive billboards more than the bridge and say, ‘Well, welcome to Savannah, here’s what we stand for,’ ” stated Stan Deaton, senior historian at the Georgia Historical Society, which is based here. “But possessing his name on that bridge is tantamount to carrying out so.”

Residents of Savannah have been attempting for decades to get the state to rename it, only to see their efforts sputter and die in the back rooms and boardrooms of Atlanta, the capital.

But this year is diverse, and state lawmakers could vote in the coming weeks to give the bridge a significantly less controversial name. And it all may possibly be simply because of two new aspects in the equation: a bit of legal detective function and the Girl Scouts, hundreds of whom are arranging to descend on the Capitol this week to argue that the bridge ought to celebrate Juliette Gordon Low, the Savannah native who founded their organization.

“Ms. Juliette was truly influential in altering the public’s opinion on females, and how women can do whatever they set their minds to, and that girls can also develop and learn to be their personal independent individual,” stated Sydnie Roberds, 15, in an interview at the group’s initial headquarters on Drayton Street here.

The scouts, including Sydnie, will hold a milk-and-cookies reception at the Capitol on Tuesday, when Ron Stephens, a Republican state representative from Savannah, is anticipated to introduce a proposal to name the bridge for Ms. Low. To bolster their efforts, the Girl Scouts have also hired a lobbyist (a former scout herself) to aid make their case in Atlanta.

In a region recognized for painfulbattles more than monuments to controversial historical figures, even the persuasive power of Tagalongs and Thin Mints may well not win the day, even though, except for a not too long ago uncovered quirk of history. It appears that lawyers have discovered no proof in state records that the formalities of naming the bridge have been ever completed. So, technically, it may not have been the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge in the very first place.

“We hope that it’s going to be a naming, not a renaming,” Mr. Stephens mentioned. “If this bridge by no means had a name, and we’re going to name it, that argument about us changing the name falls by the wayside.”

Unlike the Confederate leaders whose memorials have turn out to be flash points across the Deep South, Mr. Talmadge, a Democrat, is a figure of the fairly recent previous. He died in 1946, shortly before he was to commence a fourth term as governor 4 of the state’s six living governors had been alive for at least portion of his tenure in office.

His white supremacist views and staunch segregationism make for a troubling legacy. For instance, he vowed to purge the state university program of any employee who supported “Negroes in the exact same schools with white folks in Georgia,” a stand that helped price the state’s white colleges their accreditation. He staged an electoral comeback with a pledge to restore all-white principal elections. He utilised martial law to wage political turf battles, and he was implicated in corruption.

None of that stopped the state from naming a bridge more than the Savannah River for Mr. Talmadge in the 1950s, when his son Herman Talmadge was governor. By the 1980s, that cantilever-truss bridge was posing problems for large new container ships headed for the Port of Savannah. So the state replaced it in 1991 with the cable-stayed bridge that appears in so many postcards and snapshots nowadays — and kept on utilizing the Talmadge name, maybe out of no a lot more than habit.

And that, Mr. Stephens stated, could create the opening for state lawmakers to give the bridge a new name, unburdened by getting to formally remove the old one.

“For what ever explanation, there is a huge resistance for us to commence doing that, and producing these adjustments at a later time,” mentioned Mr. Stephens, who has sat in the Legislature via years of arguments more than the Confederate symbols on the state flag.

If officials do discover proof that the 1991 bridge was formally named, any proposal to modify it will be “dead in the water,” he mentioned, but “as extended as you’re not speaking about a renaming, I’m not running into resistance at all.” (Natalie Dale, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation, whose board had the power to name bridges until 2002, stated Friday that formal action to name the new bridge in 1991 had not been essential.)

Gov. Nathan Deal’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the bridge situation, nor did members of the Talmadge loved ones. More than the years, lawmakers said, Mr. Talmadge’s relatives have warned legislators against altering the name of the bridge.

Kaleb McMichen, a spokesman for the state Property speaker, David Ralston, a Republican, mentioned it would be “premature to comment” before a bill is formally introduced, but that it “would be regarded as via the normal committee approach like any other bill.”

Juliette Gordon Low is not the only option on the table. Other people have proposed naming the bridge for James Oglethorpe, who founded Georgia as a colony for Clarence Thomas, the United States Supreme Court associate justice, who was raised in Savannah or for Tomochichi, a Native American chief who aided the early European settlers. When the Savannah City Council voted in September to declare that Talmadge was “not a reflection of modern Georgia,” it mentioned the bridge should simply be named the Savannah Bridge.

And some individuals in Savannah, with its graceful historic district of Spanish moss and serene squares, have voiced concerns about honoring Ms. Low, simply because of the Girl Scouts’ record on race. The 105-year-old organization allowed black participants early on, but it did not charter its 1st predominantly African-American troop south of the Mason-Dixon Line till 1932, five years following Ms. Low’s death, according to the National Park Service.

The organization’s jump into the politics of bridge-naming came much less than a year right after the Boy Scouts had been criticized for the tenor of President Trump’s speech at a national scout gathering, which veered sharply into partisan politics.

The Girl Scouts say their lobbying work advances the organization’s goal of teaching young men and women about civic engagement. “We did not take any action till the City of Savannah took action,” mentioned Sylvia Acevedo, the group’s national chief executive. “The City of Savannah wanted to adjust the name. Where we came in is, ‘Hey, you want to alter the name? We believe really strongly that a excellent name would be Juliette Gordon Low Bridge.’ ”

To some in Savannah, though, the option of new name matters much less than removing the old 1. And there is some hope, if not always an expectation, that the situation will be settled soon.

“They could name it for Herschel Walker for all I care, or Vince Dooley,” stated Dr. Deaton, the historian, referring to two University of Georgia sports heroes. “But at this point, if they named it for Bear Bryant, I wouldn’t care.”

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Published at Sun, 04 Feb 2018 16:59:14 +0000

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