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'It's a piece of history': Volo museum won't remove General Lee display

Volo Auto Museum Director Brian Grams says they will continue to display a General Lee car made for "The Dukes of Hazzard" television show, despite growing criticism nationwide of Confederate images, such as the battle flag on the car's roof.
Volo Auto Museum Director Brian Grams says they will continue to display a General Lee car made for "The Dukes of Hazzard" television show, despite growing criticism nationwide of Confederate images, such as the battle flag on the car's roof.

The General Lee is staying put.

That's the message from the director of the Volo Auto Museum, home to the last surviving 1969 Dodge Charger from the first season of the "Dukes of Hazzard" television show.

The iconic orange automobile is a symbol of television history, according to museum director Brian Grams. To others, though, the Confederate battle flag painted atop the vehicle is a painful symbol of a racist ideology.

While statues, memorials and other symbols of the Confederacy are being taken down across the country -- and Mississippi is removing the Confederate emblem from its official state flag -- Grams said there are no plans for the Volo Auto Museum to stop displaying the General Lee.

"We feel the car is part of history, and people love it," Grams said. "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."

The Volo Auto Museum acquired its General Lee in 2005, upgrading from previous replicas it owned. Grams said a similar issue surrounding the car's Confederate flag image arose a few years ago when he tried to purchase another General Lee from professional golfer Bubba Watson, who planned on painting over the flag. Watson confirmed last month that he still owns the car, but the flag has been removed.

Grams said he's never heard a complaint about the museum's General Lee. On the contrary, he said he's received supportive words from people who appreciate the museum not being swayed by public opinion.

"Several people have reached out with positive comments about us leaving it on display," Grams said, "complimenting us for leaving it there and not having a knee-jerk reaction to remove it like a lot of places are."

In the wake of George Floyd's killing by Minneapolis police and subsequent protests, there have been numerous instances of Confederate and racially insensitive images and symbols being removed from various aspects of society.

Statues have been taken down. Episodes of television shows have been altered or removed by streaming services. Images from commercial brands have been eliminated. Confederate flags were banned from NASCAR events.

Grams, though, sees the General Lee as a piece of history, similar to the Nazi memorabilia displayed in the museum's military exhibit and other museums with the World War II-era displays.

"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.

The Volo Auto Museum remains closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Grams said it's allowed to reopen under the Phase 4 guidelines of the Restore Illinois plan, but the museum will remain closed until conditions to properly reopen become more realistic.

When the museum does reopen, visitors will see new exhibits like the Family Truckster from "National Lampoon's Vacation" and a 1966 Ford GT40 from "Ford v Ferrari."

They'll also continue to see the General Lee.

"It was a very popular TV show, and the show wasn't racist by any means," Grams said. "It was a wholesome, family show, so to speak."

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