Should Name of Talmadge Bridge Change? - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Should Name of Talmadge Bridge Change?

Should Name of Talmadge Bridge Change?

It's an expanse of steel over the Savannah River, a testament to engineering. But for some the name on the bridge - the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge - is not a testament to Georgia.

"I think it sends the wrong signal in 2013," says Dr. Stan Deaton, the senior historian at the Georgia Historical Society.

Earlier this month, Deaton spoke on state history to members of a Rotary club in Savannah, speaking in frank terms about the past and the namesake of the bridge. Eugene Talmadge was a popular politician in the early to mid 20th Century. Talmadge was elected governor of Georgia four times in the 1930's and 1940's.

"He was a product of his time but he manipulated that, he played that Race card," says Deaton. " I mean, the bottom line is not every politician in Georgia was like him at that time. Time Magazine said in 1946 when he died, that no man ever got farther on ignorance and hatred than Eugene Talmadge did."

Deaton says he doubts if anyone would be willing to put Talmadge's words on the bridge right now, which he says should tell you something.

In his comments to the Rotary that day, Deaton included his personal preference to have the bridge named after General James Oglethorpe, considered the founder of Savannah. His comments have spurred quite a bit of discussion in recent weeks. One of the people who heard his speech that day was the wife of City Alderman John Hall. Hall remembers stories of "Old Gene" from his parents saying the man's name still means "oppression and division to some of us."

Hall recently introduced a resolution which was passed by the Savannah City Council to support a name change. Any official action would have to come from the state of Georgia. So Hall realizes the resolution is symbolic, but he says now there's momentum. "People are talking like they have never before about this topic," he told us. "I think it would be great if something good could actually come out talking about the name on the bridge now."

For any change to take place, Chatham County's state delegation would have to request a name change which would ultimately have to be approved and signed by Governor Nathan Deal. But Hall feels there is momentum now. "I feel confident that the name Talmadge will not be on that bridge after this year. "

Deaton says whatever happens, it must be up to the community. He simply thinks that by being honest about the past, people are better able to forge a future. "I would empathize it's not about trying to take Eugene Talmadge's name out of the history books," Deaton says. "It's one thing to say he's there, go study him, it's another thing to have a bridge named for him. Nevertheless it's still there and I just think we could do better than that."

 

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