A fight is brewing just over the Georgia state line in Savannah, where a group of Girl Scouts may be on the verge of toppling an icon to the state's racist past.

Hundreds of Girl Scouts armed with clipboards and cookies took their fight to the Georgia Statehouse last week seeking to replace the name of Gov. Eugene Talmadge on Savannah's iconic suspension bridge.

"I told him that we wanted to rename the bridge in Savannah after Juliette Gordon Low because she has done, like, so much, not only for Girl Scouts, but for all the girls in the world," 9-year-old Caroline McCann said after lobbying one lawmaker.

Low founded the Girl Scouts in Savannah in 1912. Since then, millions of girls have grown up learning her motto of serving God, country and people "at all times."

The Scouts are up against powerful history. Talmadge was a Democratic force in Georgia politics for decades, serving two terms as governor from 1933 to 1937, and again for a third term from 1941 to 1943.

In addition to running the state, he was an arch segregationist who joined the wave of Southern white politicians attempting to keep black Georgians from voting.

Will the change happen? Right now, it's messy.

"This has been on the mid-burner for several years," said Stan Deaton of the Georgia Historical Society. "But, now, there is a momentum, and I think the political climate has changed where people are at least willing to have the discussion."

The key driver behind the renewed push seems to be a potential loophole and the will of the Girl Scouts.

Georgia state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, tried to remove the Talmadge name from the bridge five years ago when he proposed renaming it the Savannah Bridge. Neutral enough, he thought.

"But there were some very strong opinions one way or another in the halls," he said, describing the effort as "next to impossible."

So, the issue stewed.

Deaton, who describes himself as being in the "ABT camp" (Anybody But Talmadge), said that earlier renaming efforts were downright ugly.

"Not only was there political push back, there was outright anger," he said.

But a recent discovery has given Stephens a new opening.

When shipping containers struggled to clear the bridge, the state rebuilt it in 1991. After reviewing legal documents, Stephens contends the new bridge was never formally named by either the Georgia Department of Transportation or the state Legislature. A bill to dedicate the bridge for Talmadge passed the House in 1991, but it never passed in the Senate.

Naming, rather than renaming, Stephens said, has disarmed the once-staunch opposition.

"The argument then becomes what image do we want to place on the entrance to Georgia and Savannah that represents where we are heading?" he said.

Like South Carolina, bridge renaming efforts in Georgia must originate in the state Legislature, but that was not always the case. In 1956, the Georgia DOT board had the naming authority. Today, the board remains unconvinced of Stephens' newly touted technicality. 

A letter obtained by The Post and Courier shows Russell McMurry, head of Georgia's DOT, wrote to Stephens last month, telling him: "This bridge has been dedicated as the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge."

It has not stopped Stephens, who this week said he had more than 50 legislative supporters for the bill. He credits the Girl Scouts for that.

Since adopting the cause, the Girls Scouts have become emboldened. Girl Scouts of the USA has hired Amy Hughes to lobby at the Georgia state capitol on behalf of the bridge renaming efforts.

"It's a big deal," Stephens said. "We don’t name things after females for some reason, especially influential females, and we need to start doing that."

Deaton said cities also need to start coming to terms with history, not monuments. Too often, he said, conversations about monuments get wrapped up in guilt rather than history.

"It becomes personal, and we have to recognize that history kind of creates our own identity still today," he said.

After the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach called on state lawmakers to remove Talmadge's name from the bridge.

He said the bridge should "no longer be named for a man that divided us, but for the city that we are all proud to call our home."

Deaton said removing a name should not be equated to erasing the past. Talmadge, he said, will still have a mark on Georgia. A statue of Talmadge can be found on the Statehouse grounds. Several roads are named after him across the state. 

"History is messy, but it certainly isn't done or past," Deaton said. "We’re not erasing him from history. It's about all of us now, and how we think about the past has a profound impact on how we think about our future."

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.