UNC and The Dukes of Hazzard
You never know when and where you are going to run into a Tar Heel. There are well over 10,000 now in the Commonwealth of Virginia and I'm trying my best to meet as many of them as I can. Little did I know, however, that I voted for a Tar Heel in the last congressional election.
Ben "Cooter" Jones , UNC '65 was the Democratic candidate from the 7th congressional district for the U.S. Congress in last November's election.
For those of you not familiar with Cooter, let me explain that he was the friendly tow truck driver in the popular 1980s television series, "The Dukes of Hazzard". His name on the show was Cooter Davenport.
Cooter now resides in Sperryville, Virginia and was outspent by his Republican opponent Eric Cantor by 12-1. Jones lost the election 70-30 and says he knew it would take a miracle to win the election but he feels strongly in competition within democracies. He has no regrets about his unsuccessful run.
Had he won the election, it would have been like a return to his old home since Jones served as a congressman from the State of Georgia from 1990-1994. As a result of redistricting, he was placed in the same congressional district as Newt Gingrich and was defeated in his bid to return to Congress in 1994. He says he, along with others, was instrumental in bringing ethics charges against Gingrich so he views it as " he lost the battle but won the war."
Jones makes no secret of the fact that he became a full fledged alcoholic at the age of 21. A native of Portsmouth, Virginia, he was the first member of his family to attend college and he was a student at ECU for 1 year. In 1961 he transferred to UNC just in time to be a part of the turbulent sixties. He became active in the theatre and took as many writing courses as he could. his first love. Somewhere along the way, however, drinking, shooting pool and "chasing slow legged women" got the better of him. He realizes now that he was not really having a good time getting drunk every night in such places as Harry's, Clarence's and The Tempo Room. In 1977 he moved to the state of Georgia.
He appeared in a local movie after moving to Georgia and the producer took note of him. Shortly thereafter he was cast in the role of "Cooter" in the "The Dukes of Hazzard." which ran in prime time until 1985. I occasionally see it on reruns even today.
He currently is a farmer and along with his wife runs two "Cooter's Place" restaurants and museums, one in Sperryville, Va. and the other in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
I have seen the restaurant in Sperryville from the outside, but I have never been inside. They play bluegrass music in the restaurant so it sounds like my kind of place. I plan to visit the restaurant soon so maybe I'll take my banjo with me. You just know the food has to be down home.
I'll report on my conversation with Cooter after we meet to discuss the current state of the UNC basketball program. Cooter still attends some of the games in Chapel Hill and I usually get down for a few games each season.