As It Happens

Former “Dukes of Hazzard” star argues for Confederate flag on Texas licence plates

Ben Jones played “Cooter” on the popular ‘70s TV show, “The Dukes of Hazzard.” In the show, his job was to repair the “General Lee,” the bright orange car that featured a Confederate flag on its roof. Now, after completing two terms in office as a Democratic congressman, Jones speaks for a group called the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They are descendents of those who fought in the U.S. Civil War, and against the state of Texas, which has denied them a vanity licence plate.
Ben Jones as "Cooter" in the TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard." (Ben Jones)

Ben Jones played “Cooter” on the popular ‘70s TV show, “The Dukes of Hazzard.” In the show, his job was to repair the “General Lee,” the bright orange car that featured a Confederate flag on its roof. Now, after completing two terms in office as a Democratic congressman, Jones speaks for a group called the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They are descendents of those who fought in the U.S. Civil War, and, now,  against the state of Texas, which has denied them a vanity licence plate.

Members of The Sons of Confederate Veterans, whose logo is a crested Confederate flag, were in the U.S. Supreme Court today arguing that the denial violates free speech guarantees. The state of Texas disagrees, with even Republican governor Rick Perry saying it would be like “scraping old wounds.”

The Confederate flag has become, over the years, a symbol synonymous with Southern U.S. racism, oppression, and even slavery. But Jones sees it a different way. He says it’s insulting that people would prevent him from displaying the flag his ancestors flew. “That’s our DNA. They’re our people. They made a sacrifice for a cause they believed in in their time,” he tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

Ben Jones riding in the famous "General Lee" car from "The Dukes of Hazzard." (Ben Jones)

He adds that it’s a vocal minority of people who object to the Confederate flag, and points out it’s been used as a popular symbol for decades -- including on “The Dukes of Hazzard”. “I don’t remember ever getting one complaint about the Confederate battle flag, on top of the General Lee, which is the most popular car in the world,” he says.

Moreover, as someone with a lifetime membership in the NAACP because of his support of civil rights, he believes even Martin Luther King would stand with him on the issue. “Would Martin Luther King support putting the Confederate flag on a licence plate?” Carol Off asks him. “Of course he would,” Jones replies.

The court is likely to take several months before it issues a judgment. In the meantime, Jones says, “I was just in Washington D.C., which is a city named after the biggest slave owner in the state of Virginia.” He adds that Jefferson and Madison, who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, respectively, were also slavers. “And yet, their pictures are on our dollar bills, and nobody seems to have a big problem with that.”

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now