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‘Dukes of Hazzard’: There’s More to General Lee’s Name Than Meets the Eye

‘Dukes of Hazzard’: There’s More to General Lee’s Name Than Meets the Eye

Perhaps the biggest star of The Dukes of Hazzard is their iconic car, The General Lee, presumably named for the Confederate general. While that’s true in part, there’s much more to the origin of the famous ride’s name.

Compared to other cool TV cars, the orange 1969 Dodge Charger might seem downright modest. However, the orange beauty did have a high-octane engine, welded-shut doors, and a signature horn.

Almost every episode of The Dukes of Hazzard showcased the iconic TV car in daring cliffhanger stunts, often involving near-impossible jumps. Across its 7-season run, the show aired 147 episodes. Reportedly, around 300 1969 Dodge Chargers were wrecked for stunt sequences on the series.

Jerry Rushing, a bootlegger, possessed a customized Chrysler 300D named “Traveler,” paying tribute to Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s horse. His tale inspired the 1975 film Moonrunners, which was later transformed into The Dukes of Hazzard. The iconic car, The General Lee, honors both Robert E. Lee and the bootlegger-cum-race car driver, Jerry Rushing.

The Legendary Moonrunner That Inspired the Name of Dukes of Hazzards’ General Lee

Born in 1937, Jerry Elijah Rushing entered a family business producing illegal whiskey. As a young man, he worked as a delivery driver, known for late-night high-speed driving without headlights.

He drove a modified 1958 Chrysler 300D, capable of speeds exceeding 140 mph, faster than most police vehicles. He named it Traveler after Robert E. Lee’s horse Traveller. The car was abandoned during a chase when it ran out of gas, later sold from a police impound, and restored by Laurence Wolfel.

Rushing transitioned to a career in stock car racing. He raced against drivers like Junior Johnson and Wendell Scott. Rushing is credited with inventing maneuvers like the “bootleg” or “180,” requiring outsmarting the emergency brake ratchets to spin the wheels.

However, Jerry Rushing did more than simply inspire the name of the Dukes of Hazzards‘ General Lee. He also did stunt work and appeared uncredited as Jake Rainey’s bodyguard in Moonrunners. He also guest-starred in an early Dukes episode as crooked used car salesman Ace Parker in “Repo Men“.

Rushing expected this to be the start of a recurring role but it was a one-time appearance. However, this part led to his career as a minor character actor. He often portrayed roughnecks, sheriffs, and truckers. Jerry Rushing passed away in 2017.