Talmadge Bridge rename now in state's hands

Talmadge Bridge rename now in state's hands

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - On Thursday, when the Savannah City Council passed a resolution to change the name of the Talmadge Bridge, they were clearly convinced that the political and cultural climate had changed enough in Georgia, that some of the same lawmakers who shot this idea down a few years ago, would change their tune and sing the praises of the new "Savannah Bridge".

Since 1991 and every attempt at a name change thereafter, Georgia has been signing a different tune. Talmadge's segregationist and supremacist views won the day, even in the 21st century as a 2013 attempt was met with a legislature in no mood to bridge any racist gaps.

This is Alderman Van Johnson's second attempt to cross that bridge.

"Sometimes you have the right idea, but it's not the right time," said Alderman Van Johnson. "I think this is the right idea, and I think this is the right time as all over the country individuals are saying, that these types of names, these types of symbols that are reminders of our past, a very difficult past, and images of hate are not accepted and we're saying in Savannah we want to be the bridge to the future, not a bridge to the past."

I spoke on the phone tonight with State Representative Carl Gilliard, a member of the House Transportation Committee. That committee will be the first to debate the Talmadge turmoil. He too is convinced times and temperaments have changed, saying "It's time to move forward on a bridge that reminds us of segregation and not solidarity and a name that connects to hate and not hope."

Mayor DeLoach, who drew up the resolution, would love to see this bridge rise above.

"We will drive over this bridge which leads to our city," said DeLoach. "And it will no longer be named for a man who divided us, but for a city we are all proud of and call our home."

Perhaps equally as important is the message this move could send to those who still see Savannah a historic and economic treasure.

"Let's use this opportunity to promote our city, our state, our Georgia Ports Authority by naming the bridge, "The Savannah Bridge," said Alderman Brian Foster, of Post 2.

Yet for those who are sitting back tonight, thinking City Council has done the heaving lifting... one former Savannah Mayor, all too familiar with this crusade will be the first to remind us all, only the weight of the voters can close this deal.

"Put it out there and see what the legislators are saying," said former Mayor Edna Jackson. "But once it is out there, we as citizens of this city must also lobby for the changing of the name. We can't just leave it."

The only bridge left to cross here is whether this effort comes in the form of its own bill, or whether our local delegation can push this though by adding to a bill to remove Confederate monuments.

The path is fairly direct. The bill must pass both the house and senate transportation committees, then the full house and senate, then get the signature of the Governor.

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