ByWTOC Staff|July 29, 2020 at 4:37 PM EDT - Updated July 30 at 6:42 PM
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Two state senators will pre-file legislation to rename the Talmadge Bridge in Savannah.
State Representative Craig Gordon (D-Savannah) announced that he, along with State Senator Lester Jackson (D-Savannah), will pre-file legislation to rename the bridge after the late Congressman John Lewis.
If the proposed legislation is enacted during the 2021 legislative session, Rep. Gordon and Sen. Jackson plan to personally pay for all costs associated with new signage for the bridge renaming, which is estimated at $500.
The bridge would be renamed to the “John Lewis Freedom Bridge.”
“It is only fitting that this remarkable and distinguished Georgian be appropriately recognized by dedicating one of the largest bridges in this state in his memory,” said Rep. Gordon in a statement. “Renaming Talmadge Bridge after Congressman Lewis would ensure that our state never forgets his efforts in desegregating interstate travel and his lifetime of work of being a bridge builder across our nation.”
Gordon along with 16 other members of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus served as escorts during the funeral for Lewis Thursday in Atlanta.
“That bridge is a connecting point between Georgia and South Carolina and we thought that it would be symbolic to name it after such an American hero who’s been such a connecting point,” said Rep. Gordon.
Representative Gordon says to rename one of the state’s largest bridges for him would send a strong message.
"I think that when you see the name John Lewis who has been revered as the conscious of congress let's you know that this is a state that recognizes greatness and doesn't settle for mediocrity and doesn't settle for injustice."
Mayor Van Johnson says he too thinks this is a great idea.
“If we can get it passed I would love to do that, I’d love to see it,” said Mayor Johnson.
He says Lewis inspired him and bridged his opportunity to become Mayor of Savannah. Johnson knows the Talmadge name carries a lot of hurt.
"We have advocated that the bridge be renamed. We recognize that the name is associated with a time and place that is not so favorable in our history."
As thousands paid their respects to the man known for getting into good trouble, local leaders say they hope we never forget Congressman Lewis’ example.
“We stand on his shoulders based on his sacrifice so I think our mourning should be transitioned into more of a celebratory event because he is resting at the right hand of the father in a better place and we have to pick up the stones, and the sticks and the pens and continue his work,” said Rep. Gordon.
The bill to rename the bridge is just the first step in a long process we will be sure to keep you updated.