While the furor over removing the names of racists and segregationists and Confederate leaders from public buildings and getting rid of monuments and statues erected in their honor has receded from the public eye, that doesn’t mean that those efforts have ended. For example, in Savannah Georgia there is a massive bridge that is named after a former governor Eugene Talmadge who was an out-and-out racist. There is absolutely no doubt in his case that his name belongs in the dustbin of history and not on a bridge.
Talmadge’s white supremacist views and staunch segregationism make for a troubling legacy. For example, he vowed to purge the state university system of any employee who supported “Negroes in the same schools with white folks in Georgia,” a stand that helped cost the state’s white colleges their accreditation.
He staged an electoral comeback with a pledge to restore all-white primary elections. He used martial law to wage political turf battles, and he was implicated in corruption.
This ugly history should have made for an easy call to remove his name but this is America, when racists suddenly discover their long-hidden love of ‘tradition’ and ‘history’ when it comes to preserving racist names and symbols. At least that is what the people who oppose removing monuments and changing names say drives them. So past efforts to remove Talmadge’s name have failed.
But this time the racists have a more formidable foe and that is the Girl Scouts of America. It turns out that the founder of their movement Juliette Gordon Low is a native of Savannah and they have started a driveto name the bridge after her, and hundreds of them will descend on the state capital to urge legislators to make the change.
The Scouts will hold a milk-and-cookies reception at the Capitol on Tuesday, when Ron Stephens, a Republican state representative from Savannah, is expected to introduce a proposal to name the bridge for Low.
In a region known for painful battles over monuments to controversial historical figures, even the persuasive power of Tagalongs and Thin Mints might not win the day, though, except for a recently uncovered quirk of history.
The ‘quirk of history’ referred to is that while the original bridge was officially dedicated to Talmadge in the 1950s by his son who the governor then, the replacement bridge built in 1991 had no formal dedication and thus it could be argued that this bridge, although known to all as the Talmadge bridge, actually has no name right now, making it easier to name it after Low.
When it comes down to a fight between Girl Scouts and racists, the Scouts will win because they are a tough, principled organization. Talmadge’s days are numbered.