Ben “Cooter” Jones Fires Up The General Lee

Most of the emails that I received over the weekend in response to my interview for a story about Mattie Rice Clyburn were predictable. The responses included references to the fact that I am “from” Boston even though no true Bostonian would agree with such an assessment since I’ve only lived here for three years. And, of course, many of the emails include the tired mantra that I “hate the South.” I filed the emails away with the rest of the hate mail that I’ve received over the years.

I am, however, disappointed with Ben “Cooter” Jones, who as many of you know appeared on the popular television show, “The Dukes of Hazard” and more recently served in Congress. Mr. Jones is now the Chief of Heritage Operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Here is what he had to say about my interview.

For that Associated Press story, the reporter, Martha Waggoner, interviewed a man identified as a “blogger”, a man who is a high school teacher from New Jersey who lives in Massachusetts. Claiming to be a “historian”, this blogger has said that Mrs. Rice had promulgated a hoax, and that it was not true that men like Weary Clyburn had supported the Confederacy because Weary Clyburn was a slave. Never mind what the man Weary Clyburn himself said. The blogger, a man named Kevin Levin, thinks he knows the minds of Southern people who lived in the 1840’s better than they knew it. In choosing to interview a blogger who is best known as an avowed anti-Southern propagandist, the A.P. reporter has insulted the memory of Mrs. Rice and her father and brought great pain to her family and to the many friends who knew this wonderful lady….

Of course, the “reporter” did not bother to cover the actual event and talk to Mrs. Rice’s children and grandchildren. She and her colleagues were nowhere in sight. She had “covered” the story with a phone call to a self-obsessed Massachusetts blogger.

It is an outrageous and disturbing piece of “reporting”. How anyone could slander this father and daughter is beyond comprehension, but that is exactly what “reporter” Martha Waggoner and “blogger” Kevin Levin managed to do.

It’s unfortunate that Mr. Jones can do little more than engage in the same type of slander and insult that he accuses me of engaging in. I have never suggested that Ms. Rice or anyone in the family has “promulgated a hoax”. In fact, the other day I argued just the opposite. There is no indication that Mr. Jones apparently has looked at any of the documents related to the history of Weary Clyburn.

What I have written about slaves, who functioned as personal servants to their masters in the army or as impressed workers for the Confederacy, in print and online is easily accessible for those who are interested. I certainly don’t believe that I ought to be given the last word on any of these issues.

A Chief of Heritage Operations for the SCV and a former congressman, however, ought to be able to do better.

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“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

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20 comments… add one
  • Marian Latimer Oct 22, 2014 @ 19:22

    Thank you for your kind words, London John, sir. In my crawling through the interwebs tonight, and having my head explode over a customer service issue (what did we do before said interwebs?) hence, I lost the link while trying to stay out of anger management, I came across a story of a SC almost all white high school football team who has gotten into a teeny, tiny, wee bit of trouble. Seems they have been drawing faces (I believe you can imagine the caricature) on watermelons and smashing them, then eating them. Seems this has taken place when they have played mostly black schools. Now, the current explanation for one name was that it was a black school (as I recall, this was Charleston) that closed almost THIRTY YEARS AGO and they were trying to pay respect to it.

    Flaggers anyone? Why who wouldn’t be convinced after a perfectly sensible argument like that?

  • London John Oct 22, 2014 @ 1:49

    Perhaps all Lost Causers commenting on this blog in future could be referred to Ms Latimer’s perfect answer above.

  • Marian Latimer Oct 21, 2014 @ 20:28

    Ah, just as I’m over that gentleman from Virginia impugning my Northern brothers and sisters for their apparent lack of class and literary skills, (and why, pray tell is Ms. Lively the paragon of Southern Lifestyle? I don’t recall Scarlett O’Hara having her midsection hanging out as a point of fashion, but I digress) I see that some politician who is better known as Cooter takes real historians to task because they question the fact that what they construe as history is a whitewash and I do not intend a pun. “Why yes, Uncle Henry and Auntie Jenny were beloved members of our family. The fact that Auntie Jenny repeatedly had intimate relations with GGG-Granddaddy Samuel should be immaterial. I’m sure she was very fond of him. What’s that you say? It was rape? Why it was no such thing! And the fact that Marse Samuel had to take the whip to Uncle Henry back when he was young was just to teach him some manners when he was sowing his oats and getting uppity. The fact my ancestor’s family sold his first wife and daughter out from under him had nothing to do with that. They went to good, kind people and colored folks couldn’t get married then anyway. Henry’s boy, Charlie went to war with Samuel’s eldest, Samuel III, of his own free will and they fought side by side, that is after Charlie got Sammy his breakfast, shaved him, fed his horse, shined his boots, you know, all the things a good manservant does. Charlie loved Sammy and Sammy loved Charlie and after the war, well, Charlie got a pension. Land and such? Well, wasn’t that supposed to come from the gubmint?”

    The phrase “lipstick on a pig” comes to mind, yet I don’t know why. (SMDH) Heritage and history sure are two different animals.

  • Rob Baker Oct 21, 2014 @ 15:03

    This was a well thought out post…until this line.

    A Chief of Heritage Operations for the SCV and a former congressman, however, ought to be able to do better. (emphasis added)

    Come on now Kevin, can you really put anything past a politician? 😉

  • Billy Bearden Oct 21, 2014 @ 12:47

    When the news story of Miss Mattie’s passing broke, I’ve bit my tongue, and bit my tongue, but I cannot do so any more. What you have done to that poor Lady – Rest her Soul – on her Funeral day, is no better than what Westover Baptist Church creeps do to Military Veteran burials.
    She wasn’t even in the ground and the internet is swirling with attacks from Kevin Levin.
    Shame on you

    • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2014 @ 13:40


      Perhaps you can pinpoint where you believe I attacked Ms. Rice or her family.

      You are the last person who should be lecturing others about personal attacks online.

  • James Harrigan Oct 21, 2014 @ 9:09

    “Chief of Heritage Operations”? Now THAT is a hilarious title. At least it helps makes clear that to these clowns, “Heritage” and history have nothing to do with each other.

  • Jerry McKenzie Oct 21, 2014 @ 8:40

    As a descendent of long lines of maternal Southern ancestors, many of whom owned slaves, I have never felt offended by your blog, speeches or writings. Historical investigation to get as near to the truth as possible (and away from myth) is of value to all people. Keep up the good work!

    • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2014 @ 13:41

      People like “Cooter” Jones and others create this false distinction, which serves the intellectually bankrupt quite well.

  • John Betts Oct 21, 2014 @ 6:59

    Let’s say that you’re right in that Kevin Levin is extremely biased with an axe to grind against the South. While this might call his commentary into question, any historian worth their salt will take the documentary evidence he presents into account when examining the case of Weary Clyburn. In essence, it really doesn’t matter what Levin’s views are when the core of this matter is addressed: whether Clyburn was a slave or a soldier during the Civil War. The evidence shows he was a slave, not a soldier. If Levin is exercising “selective vision” it really pales when it comes to what the SCV and their supporters are doing. Maybe they’re right that Clyburn later expressed support for the Confederacy after the War (during a time that the “Lost Cause” mythos with slavery being heavily downplayed was rampant), which wouldn’t be too surprising given where and when he lived as well as how close he apparently was to some Confederate veterans. Yet while this might be an interesting detail it doesn’t change the basic facts: he was a slave at the time who went to war at his master’s bidding.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2014 @ 13:43

      The pension system for former slaves in most former Confederate states required petitioners to demonstrate their loyalty to the Confederacy.

  • Connie Chastain Oct 21, 2014 @ 5:13

    Mr. Jones is right on the money about you. Your ideologically driven loathing for the Confederacy, Southerners past and present, even the slaves you pretend to care about, is showcased on your blog like a department store window display. You don’t see it because your agenda provides you with selective vision.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2014 @ 5:17

      Regardless of whether Mr. Jones or you agree with this assessment, it has nothing to do with the history of Weary Clyburn.

    • Christopher Shelley Oct 21, 2014 @ 7:06

      Wow. Too bad Ms. Chastain doesn’t understand the Psych 101 term “projection.”

      • Woodrowfan Oct 22, 2014 @ 4:50

        that would be just part of a very long list..

    • Jimmy Dick Oct 21, 2014 @ 7:20

      No, Jones’ comments have more to do with keeping the myth of the Lost Cause alive than anything else. Real history means nothing to him or that myth’s desperate supporters. They’re only interested in a feel good version of history that never happened.

  • Karen L. Cox Oct 21, 2014 @ 4:18

    Some folks may not know who Ben “Cooter” Jones is, other than the new head of the SCV. Might want to include that in the post.

  • Spelunker Oct 21, 2014 @ 3:20

    Reading and comprehension are an acquired taste:

    “One thing that has been lost in all the controversy surrounding Weary Clyburn’s official status in the Confederate army is that the core of his story is true. Weary’s wartime experiences helped to forge a close relationship with veterans in Monroe, NC. What else can explain the fact that his passing was covered in the local paper? This, however, does not change the fact that the available records demonstrate that he was a slave and not a soldier.”

    • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2014 @ 3:24

      What Ben Jones and others don’t seem to understand is that the life of Weary Clyburn and his place in the broader story of the Civil War and beyond goes much further than beginning and ending with what Ms. Rice remembers about her father. Of course, her memories of her father’s stories are important, but for a serious historian or even a serious blogger doing history involves much more.

      Perhaps Mr. Jones’s comment points us once again to the distinction between heritage and history.

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