ATLANTA (AP) — Offering milk and cookies, hundreds of Girl Scouts gathered inside the Georgia Capitol to try to convince lawmakers to get their founder's name affixed to a Savannah bridge that is currently named after a white segregationist.
Coinciding with the scouts' visit Tuesday, Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), introduced a bill to remove former Gov. Eugene Talmadge's name from the bridge and rename it after Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts in the coastal city in 1912.
Historians say former Gov. Eugene Talmadge was a popular politician in the1940s among white voters who would lace his campaign speeches with the n-word.
The former governor funded the original bridge that crosses nearly two miles from Savannah to South Carolina, but it was replaced in the 1990s with a newer cable-stayed bridge. The newer bridge, Stephens said, deserves a new name.
"The Talmadge family are a very honorable family. The last thing we want to do is disparage that family," Stephens said. "But this is a new bridge. It was never named."
Stephens said there’s no record of the state actually naming the new bridge over the Savannah River, which is why he's brought the new bill forward. He's already got 50 co-sponsors to the bi-partisan bill in an era when monuments honoring segregationists are getting greater scrutiny (Talmadge's statue also sits on the grounds of the State Capitol).
Meanwhile, Girl Scouts at the Capitol say Lowe would be the perfect namesake for the Savannah bridge.
"Juliet Gordon Lowe was all about building bridges," one Girl Scout representative told 11Alive.
"Miss Juliet was really an innovator of her time," another said. "A lot of people didn’t think women could do much of anything, but she tried to change the public’s opinion and teaching girls they could do whatever they want to do."
Material from the Associated Press contributed to this report.