Jesse L. Duke, most commonly known as "Uncle Jesse", is a fictional character in the American television series The Dukes of Hazzard which ran from 1979 to 1985. Jesse was played by Denver Pyle. He is one of only two characters to appear in every single episode of the TV series, the other being Boss Hogg.
Jesse was uncle to Bo, Luke, Daisy, Coy, Vance, and Jeb Stuart Duke. Jesse, his niece and, periodically, his nephews, lived in an unincorporated area of the fictional Hazzard County, in Georgia. Jesse was the patriarch of the Duke family and the father-figure to all Dukes who stayed with him on the dilapidated "Duke Farm". Jesse, a long-time widower who apparently had no children of his own, happily provided for his nephews and niece in the absence of their parents—all tragically killed in a car wreck years earlier. Despite an occasionally gruff exterior (usually brought on by the trouble that his nephews found themselves in, or by Boss Hogg's crooked schemes), he was a very kind and loving man, and his popularity in Hazzard was reflected by the fact that just about everyone in the area, not just relatives, called him "Uncle" Jesse. He was known for dispensing sage-like wisdom to his niece and nephews, who often found themselves in trouble with the corrupt local officials, Boss Hogg and Rosco P. Coltrane.
Jesse Duke was born in the Duke farmhouse and he would later act as midwife for both Bo and Luke, who would also be born on the Duke farm. In his youth, Jesse had been a moonshine "ridge-runner", in direct competition with J.D. Hogg—thus beginning the "feud" between the Dukes and the Hoggs. However, while both Boss Hogg and Uncle Jesse would scowl at the mention of the others name, the two enjoyed a lifelong "friendship" of sorts, with one helping the other when in desperate need. Jesse educated his nephews about Hogg and the corruption in Hazzard, and often provided the cousins with inspirational sage advice.
According to the film, Uncle Jesse was a Korean War veteran. The narrator indicated that Jesse had only been to two places in his life: Hazzard County and Korea, and believed that was "one place too many."
Since the early 18th century, up until the late 1970s, the Duke family had a family tradition of making what was commonly known in Hazzard County as "The finest shine this side of the Mason-Dixon." However, after his nephews Bo and Luke were arrested, tried and convicted for illegally-transporting moonshine, Jesse Duke struck a deal with the government: he would cease and desist all moonshine brewing in exchange for Bo and Luke being released on probation.
Jesse Duke drove a 1973-77 Ford F-100 pickup truck.
Jesse remained in Hazzard long after his niece and nephews had moved on. Sometime between 1985 and 1997, the farmhouse was replaced with a much better quality two-story house. In 1997, he chaired the Hazzard Homecoming reunion committee, although he was alienated by much of the town by rejecting "Mama Maxx"'s plans to build a theme park on Hazzard Swamp - creating additional jobs, revenue and entertainment for Hazzard County. However, in order to build the park, Maxx needed access to the Duke farm. For the Swamp's sake, Jesse held out and eventually - Bo, Luke, and Daisy returned to help their uncle, and - in the process - exposed Maxx's plan as fraud: she wanted the rights to the land solely to mine for its valuable ore.
Shortly after this last adventure, Jesse died (Pyle had died in December 1997). However, his legacy lived on through the many of his famous recipes that were passed to his friends and family. Cooter used Jesse's barbecue sauce recipe to enter the Hazzard Hoe-Down BBQ sauce contest in 2000. But due to a missing secret ingredient, he could only muster second place. Just after the contest, thanks to Enos, Cooter inadvertently discovered the secret ingredient.
uncle Jesse in film
Willie Nelson portrayed Uncle Jesse in the 2005 film The Dukes of Hazzard and in the 2007 film The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning. This version of the character was known for his seemingly endless repertoire of risque one-liner jokes and his singing ability, in addition to his sage-like advice. In reference to Nelson's well-publicized support for marijuana legalization, Nelson's Jesse also was shown enjoying a puff of pot.