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Ben Jones (American actor and politician)

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Ben Lewis Jones (born August 30, 1941) is an American actor, politician, playwright and essayist, best known for his role as Cooter Davenport in The Dukes of Hazzard. Jones also served for four years in the United States House of Representatives from January 3, 1989 to January 3, 1993.

Ben Jones
Ben L. Jones 101st Congress 1989.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 4th district
In office
January 3, 1989 – January 3, 1993
Preceded byPat Swindall
Succeeded byJohn Linder
Personal details
Born
Ben Lewis Jones

(1941-08-30) August 30, 1941 (age 78)
Tarboro, North Carolina, U.S.
NationalityAmerican
Political partyDemocratic
ProfessionActor

Personal lifeEdit

Jones is a 1959 graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School in Portsmouth, Virginia and attended the University of North Carolina for four years. He is married to Alma Viator.[1] By previous wives, Ben has a daughter, Rachel, and a son, Walker.

 
Ben Jones and the General Lee, taken outside his store "Cooter's Place" in Sperryville, Virginia in 1999.

Since the 1990s, Jones has run a chain of "Cooter's museums" across the U.S., dedicated to The Dukes of Hazzard. "Cooter's Place" currently has locations in Tennessee and Virginia.[2]. Jones also monetizes his sitcom role through his band, Cooter’s Garage Band, and events such as Hazzard Run and Cooter’s Shenandoah Jamboree.

The Dukes of HazzardEdit

Ben Jones made his first TV appearance in the show Movin' On in 1975. He appeared in the movie Moon Runners in 1975, which was also directed by The Dukes of Hazzard director, Gy Waldron. Gy Waldron met with Jones after the movie was released to discuss creating The Dukes of Hazzard. Jones was the first to audition for The Dukes of Hazzard.

Critics first predicted that the show 'would not last after the first commercial break'.[citation needed] The television show ran from 1979 to 1985 and garnered fans throughout the world.

When meeting with fans at a recent autograph signing session, Jones stated he 'greatly disapproved' the production of The Dukes of Hazzard movies (2005, 2007). Jones stated that he disliked the portrayal of Uncle Jesse by Willie Nelson and the portrayal of Daisy Duke by Jessica Simpson. Jones stated that the original TV show, was a 'family television show', but with Hollywood's adaptation, it wasn't 'as family friendly'.[3]

Political careerEdit

Following the end of The Dukes of Hazzard, Jones entered the political arena as a Democrat. In 1986, he ran unsuccessfully against Pat Swindall for a seat in the United States House of Representatives from Georgia, garnering 47% of the vote, more than expected.[4] He ran again in 1988, against Swindall, this time easily winning with 60% of the vote. Jones was narrowly re-elected in 1990, but in 1992, following redistricting which moved his home into another district, he was defeated in the Democratic primary election. In 1994, he ran against the then-House Minority Whip and soon-to-be House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Jones received 35% of the vote.

Jones has since returned to acting, as well as becoming a well-known writer, writing many political essays and a one-man play about Dizzy Dean in which he plays the famous "Gashouse Gang" pitcher and baseball announcer.[5]

In 1998, he broke from most Democrats and called on President Bill Clinton to resign during his impeachment. Jones is still active in the Democratic Party. In 2002, he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the United States House from Virginia against Republican incumbent Eric Cantor, thus becoming one of very few recent American politicians to seek elective office in more than one state.

Confederate flag controversyEdit

In 2015, Jones announced his support of the Confederate flag, which can be seen on the exterior top of The Dukes of Hazzard signature car, the General Lee. His defense of the flag served as his response to Warner Bros.' decision to no longer manufacture any merchandise that features the flag, such as the General Lee, and the discontinuation of reruns of the show due to Dylann Roof's infamous reputation associated with the flag.[6][7][8][9]

Though Jones often refers to his Civil Rights activism in the 1960s, quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, claims a lifelong membership in the NAACP (an organization that "...has been fighting against symbols that glorify the Confederacy...[10]), and calls for a dialog between both sides of the Confederate-flag issue, he dismisses any association between the Confederate flag and slavery. Instead he focuses on his pride in the Confederate flag as a memorial to his ancestors who fought for the Confederacy in what he refers to as “The War of Northern Aggression." For example, in an editorial Jones wrote titled, “The Second War of Northern Aggression,” his only mention of slavery is in scare quotes, “Since the North won, the conventional wisdom there is usually simple: the North fought the Civil War to ‘free the slaves’ and to save the Union from the secessionist traitors of the South”[11] He also attributes any association between the Confederate flag and slavery to a "wave of political correctness" and calls it a "cultural cleansing." [12]

External linksEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Pat Swindall
United States Representative for the 4th Congressional District of Georgia
January 3, 1989 – January 2, 1993
Succeeded by
John Linder
  1. ^ "Top Fund-Raiser Is Also a Billionaire's Wife" New York Times November 3, 1996 By Elizabeth Bumiller
  2. ^ Cooter's Place--Locations
  3. ^ Ben Jones speech at O'Reilly World of Wheels, Omaha, March 19, 2017 prior to a meet and greet session
  4. ^ Barone, Michael; and Ujifusa, Grant. The Almanac of American Politics 1988', p. 296. National Journal, 1987.
  5. ^ "Cooter Showing his Love of Dizzy Dean". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. 29 April 2004. p. D2. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  6. ^ {{cite magazine|last=Derschowitz|first=Jessica|title=Dukes of Hazzard actor Ben Jones defends Confederate fPuref>McAfee, Tierney (24 June 2015). "Dukes of Hazzard Actor Defends Confederate Flag: It Represents 'Courage and Family and Good Times'". People. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  7. ^ Fisher, Luchina (1 July 2015). "TV Land Pulls 'Dukes of Hazzard' Reruns". ABC News. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  8. ^ CNN's Ashleigh Banfield Gets Into Shouting Match With Ex-Rep. Ben 'Cooter' Jones on YouTube
  9. ^ Ben Jones tells CNN why the Confederate flag should be on license plates on YouTube
  10. ^ "The NAACP on Confederate Symbols". NAACP.
  11. ^ "The Second War of Northern Aggression". Rappahannock News.
  12. ^ "Dukes of Hazzard star Ben Jones defends Confederate flag, attributes backlash to political correctness". New York Daily News.