While statues of General Robert E. Lee are being removed across the country, General Lee the car is staying put. One of the famous Dodge Chargers used in the classic television series Dukes of Hazzard is remaining on display at an Illinois museum, despite having the Confederate battle flag painted on its roof. Volo Auto Museum Director Brian Grams said the car is "part of history" and he has never received complaints about it.
The car on display at the museum is the last remaining 1969 Charger used during the first season and has been on display since the museum acquired it in 2005. "We feel the car is part of history, and people love it," Grams told the Northwest Herald. "We’ve got people of all races and nationalities that remember the TV show and aren’t offended by it whatsoever. It’s a piece of history and it’s in a museum."
Grams said no one has complained and several people have called up to say they support their decision to keep it on display, despite the growing protests against the use of the Confederate flag, which is seen as a symbol of racism. People have been "complimenting us for leaving it there and not having a knee-jerk reaction to remove it like a lot of places are," Grimes said.
The museum is located in Volo, Illinois, about 50 miles northwest of Chicago. There is also a military display, and Grams said he sees the General Lee as much a piece of history as the Nazi memorabilia from World War II on display. "If we're going to get complaints about the General Lee being here, we've got much worse items over in our military building," he said, adding that the Dukes of Hazzard was not a "racist" show itself. "It was a wholesome, family show, so to speak."
Ironically, while the car is on display, visitors cannot see it. The museum is still closed due to Illinois' coronavirus pandemic guidelines. Grams said he could reopen under the state's Phase 4 guidelines, but he is keeping it closed until the conditions for reopening are more realistic. When it reopens, Grimes said visitors can see some new attractions, like the Family Truckster in National Lampoon's Vacation and a 1966 Ford GT40 used in Ford v Ferrari.
The Dukes of Hazzard series ran on CBS from 1979 to 1985 and told the story of moonshiners Bo Duke (John Schneider) and Luke Duke (Tom Wopat). The show's use of the Confederate flag has long been controversial. Back in July 2015 and in response to the Charleston church shooting, TV Land pulled the show from its roster because of the flag. Warner Bros., which produced the show, also said they would stop selling merchandise with the flag, including models of the General Lee. Bob Jones, who played Cooter on the show and runs the Cooter's Place Dukes of Hazzard stores and museums, said he would still sell Confederate flag products.
"Our beloved symbol is now being attacked in a wave of political correctness that is unprecedented in our nation of free speech and free expression," Jones, a former congressman, wrote in 2015. "Cooter's is going to continue to sell our Southern symbols as long as there is a Cooter's," Jones added. "I will fight these people until hell freezes over, and then I will fight them on the ice."