The culture wars of America continue to march into areas once considered innocent. This includes the iconic orange 1969 Dodge Charger depicted in the hit ’80s TV show The Dukes of Hazzard. Here’s the story of the controversy surrounding the General Lee and a senator who found himself in hot water for owning a replica of one of the most infamous classic cars from the South.
What was ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’?
The Dukes of Hazzard was an iconic TV show that aired from 1979 to 1985, IMDb reports. The series follows the adventures of “good ol’ boys” Bo Duke and his cousin Luke as they foil the ploys of corrupt politician Boss Hogg. The Duke boys drive an orange Dodge Charger dubbed the General Lee, named for the Confederate officer.
The show was lighthearted and often featured exciting stunts with the General Lee and other cars. The Dukes of Hazzard was a smash hit, earning a loyal fan base. So much so that conventions still celebrate the show, and devotees have sought to get their own General Lee. Actor John Schneider, who starred as Bo Duke, occasionally attends these events and remains active in the fan community.
During the show’s initial run, it didn’t generate any notable controversy. But that would change in the 2000s. One of the General Lee’s most prominent features is a Confederate flag painted on its roof. And that flag has become a divisive symbol in the past few decades.
Some proponents see the flag as a sign of Southern culture, while detractors view it as a symbol of racism. And this has led to a debate of whether General Lee replicas should be altered to remove the flag.
The senator who built a General Lee replica
This debate found its way to West Virginia state Sen. Mark Maynard. A huge fan of the show, Maynard bought a 1969 Dodge Charger and transformed it into a General Lee replica. He opted to paint the Confederate flag on his car. This happened in 2006 before Maynard was elected. And recently, the car has put the senator under scrutiny.
Maynard defended himself by saying, “My car isn’t a shrine to the Confederacy but a shrine to my childhood of a simpler time …,” The Herald-Dispatch reported. He pointed out that West Virginia sided with the Union during the Civil War and that Confederate soldiers killed his ancestors. “The good Lord put us on this here Earth to overcome things like hating people for something they did to us in the past,” he said
Senator Maynard isn’t the only public figure to come under fire for owning a General Lee.
Other iterations of the controversial car
Many General Lee cars — replicas and originals from the TV show — remain. Because the series used the car in many stunts, it had about 300 stunt models during production, Showbiz CheatSheet reports. Thanks to those stunts, about one General Lee car per episode met its demise. But that also means authentic models became available for purchase.
One of the original General Lee cars went to professional golfer Bubba Watson, adding to his impressive car collection. Like many Americans, Watson was heartbroken after the 2015 Charleston shooting that targeted black churchgoers. In response, he painted over the Confederate flag with an American Flag.
But not all owners have made the change, including John Schneider. However, one of his replicas got an unplanned makeover when Hurricane Ida blew down a tree that smashed his car. Schneider said he plans to repair it, and it seems the Confederate flag will remain intact.