Former Georgia Congressman Ben Jones, who starred as ace mechanic “Cooter” Davenport on the hit television series “The Dukes of Hazzard”, has condemned the decision by NASCAR to prevent the use of the popular “General Lee” 1969 Dodge Charger at the Phoenix Sprint Cup race in March. In a statement Friday, NASCAR said “The image of the Confederate flag is not something that should play an official role in our sport as we continue to reach out to new fans and make NASCAR more inclusive.” “The General Lee” has a Confederate Battle Flag on its roof.
Jones said in response: “At a time when tens of millions of Americans are honoring their Union and Confederate ancestors during this Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, NASCAR has chosen to dishonor those Southerners who fought and died in that terrible conflict by caving to “political correctness” and the uninformed concerns of corporate sponsors.
This is also an extraordinary insult to rural Southerners, who are NASCAR’s oldest and most fervent fan base, and it sends a message against inclusion and against the need for diversity. Many of us who are descended from ancestors who fought for the South see this as a crude dishonoring of our kinfolks and our heritage. Our ancestors were proud Americans who had fought for our Nation before the Civil War and have served honorably in every conflict since then.
The Confederate Battle Flag is on display at many National Battlefields and is displayed by countless historical and heritage groups who are descendants of those who fought in that crucible of the American experience.
“The Dukes of Hazzard” remains a beloved classic television show which is watched by Americans of all races and regions and is watched internationally as an upbeat reflection of the American Spirit. It is also watched by our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world.
While it is true that the Confederate Battle Flag has been used by extremist groups like the KKK, these groups also display the American Flag and the Christian cross in their rituals. However, the vast majority of the display of the St. Andrews Cross Flag is in a benign spirit of remembrance and reverence.
I am a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, a Life Member of the NAACP, and a proud member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. As a cast member of “The Dukes of Hazzard” and the owner of several “General Lees”, I can attest that the car and our show reflect the very best of American values, and that Hazzard County was a place where racism was not tolerated.
This action by NASCAR is a provocative and unnecessary over-reaction to a problem that doesn’t exist. It is a disgraceful and gratuitous insult to a lot of very decent people. It is prejudicial toward those good-hearted folks who, like Uncle Jesse Duke, are in fact “never meanin’ no harm”.