‘Dukes of Hazzard’: Meet Jerry Elijah Rushing, the Man Who Was the Real-Life Inspiration for ‘Bo Duke’

by Keeli Parkey

Many of the antics Bo Duke and Luke Duke got into on “The Dukes of Hazzard” were obviously fictitious. Interestingly, the character of Bo Duke was inspired by a real human being.

Actor John Schneider played Bo Duke on the beloved television sitcom. The real human being behind Bo Duke was a man named Jerry Elijah Rushing. And, Mr. Rushing is a very interesting person.

Rushing was born on Sept. 1, 1937. He was known as a prolific moonshine bootlegger or “moonrunner.”

Rushing reportedly became a bootlegger because he chose to join his family profession. At first, he delivery driver. But, this wasn’t a simple job. This role required him to be able to avoid law enforcement at high speeds.

Helping Jerry Elijah Rushing do his job was his vehicle. It was a 1958 Chrysler 300D, according to Wikipedia.com. This car could go as fast as 140 mph and it helped him avoid law enforcement.

Another interesting tidbit about Rushing’s car was the nickname he bestowed upon it. That nickname was “Traveller.” And, what connects that car to the “General Lee” that appeared in “The Dukes of Hazzard” was General Robert E. Lee himself. Turns out, “Traveller” was the name of Lee’s horse.

“Traveller” was taken into custody by police.

Interestingly, this only happened after the inspiration for Bo Duke on “The Dukes of Hazzard” had to leave it behind because he ran out of gas. Leaving his prized vehicle behind must have been a difficult choice for Rushing. And, he only did so because he was being chased by law enforcement officers.

Inspiration for Character on ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ Later Became a Race Car Driver

So, what is a moonshine bootlegger – or “moonrunner” – to do for career advancement? Well, for Jerry Elijah Rushing the solution to his career troubles was stock car racing, according to Wikipedia.com.

Rushing’s career as a “moonrunner” and stock car driver eventually caught the attention of Gy Waldron. After Rushing captured his interest, Waldron spoke with him and compiled information about Rushing’s time as a moonshine bootlegger.

Thanks to their interviews together, Waldron started to put together an idea for a movie. Wikipedia.com also reports that he added information he gathered during his childhood in Kentucky to develop the idea for the film “Moonrunners.”

Rushing’s Story Inspired Famous Television Show

This idea eventually became a reality in 1975. The film “Moonrunners” was released during 1975.

It was this film that provided major inspiration for “The Dukes of Hazzard” series. That show aired from 1979 until 1985.

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia.com, Jerry Elijah Rushing was not very happy that he did not receive enough credit for his contributions to both “Moonrunners” and “The Dukes of Hazzard.” He reportedly filed a lawsuit in order to acquire the royalties he believed he deserved.

Jerry Elijah Rushing’s suit was settled out of court and the settlement amount was not disclosed.

Rushing passed away on July 23, 2017. His death took place at his home, according to his obituary. He was 80 years old at the time of his death.

“… He was owner of Chestnut Hunting Lodge,” Rushing’s obit said. “Jerry was the real ‘Duke of Hazzard’ … He was a Hall of Fame member of the North Carolina Bow Hunting Association along with being a Hall of Fame member of the North Carolina Trappers Association, and had a love for racing cars. He was a faithful member of Dover Baptist Church.”