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Kentucky Maverick

Kentucky Maverick: The Life and Adventures of Colonel George M. Chinn

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Kentucky Maverick
    Book Description:

    Colonel George M. Chinn's (1902--1987) life story reads more like fiction than the biography of a Kentucky soldier. A smart and fun-loving character, Chinn attended Centre College and played on the famous "Praying Colonels" football team that won the 1921 national championship. After graduation, he returned to his home in Mercer County and partnered with munitions expert "Tunnel" Smith to dynamite a cliff. The resulting hole became Chinn's Cave House -- a diner that also functioned as an underground gambling operation during Prohibition. He even served as Governor A. B. "Happy" Chandler's bodyguard before joining the Marine Corps in 1943.

    InKentucky Maverick, Carlton Jackson details the life of a legendary and highly decorated Marine whose career spanned both world wars, the Korean War, and Vietnam. Chinn's service paired a love of history with a special kind of genius: he documented the history of military technology while designing innovative weapons such as the M-19 automatic grenade launcher, which is still used in the armed forces today. After leaving the Corps, Chinn leaned on his many connections to become the director of the Kentucky Historical Society.

    Carlton Jackson's entertaining biography weaves together outrageous tales of gunplay and politics while revealing Chinn's sense of humor, unbending will, and a sense of destiny that could only be fulfilled by a true twentieth-century Renaissance man.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6107-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction: A Maverick from a Family of Mavericks
    (pp. 1-14)

    When Colonel George Morgan Chinn took his final separation papers from the U.S. Marine Corps, he wore ribbons and medals earned in four conflicts: World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Just how did he manage to take part in all these wars, especially World War I? His birthday was January 15, 1902, which would have made him just fifteen when the United States began to send troops over to France.

    The answer has to do with his upbringing and schooling. His earliest “intellectual” memory was of his mother reading the Deer Foot series to him. This series...

  4. 1 What’s in a Name?
    (pp. 15-30)

    Over the years, all members of the Chinn family of Mercer County, Kentucky—George Morgan Chinn and his forebears—endured their share of teasing, being called “Chinn Ups,” “Chinny-Chin-Chinns,” and (in the colonel’s case, because of his weight) “Double-Chinn.”¹

    The original family name was des Chynn, of French Huguenot derivation. When the family arrived in Mercer County, they immediately became aware of the ill will in the area between the English and various Indian tribes. With the latter receiving strong support from the French, war loomed many times between these two adversaries. “It was better to change the name [of...

  5. 2 Football and Caves
    (pp. 31-46)

    George Morgan Chinn considered several factors in his decision to leave the Centre College football lineup he so devoutly loved. He had traveled out of the state only once, when the Praying Colonels trounced Harvard 6–0. He treasured the memory of this trip to Boston and Cambridge and their environments, and obviously wanted to experience more of the world. The injury to his shoulder kept him always on the sidelines, which put him in the coach’s company rather than the players’. Charlie Moran began to depend on Chinn, whose sharp eye for the field helped to gain Centre advantages....

  6. 3 Odds and Ends; or, Here and There
    (pp. 47-60)

    Predictably, once back in the Big Settlement, George Morgan and Cotton Chinn moved straightway to Mundy’s Landing on the Kentucky River.¹ Many boats, both new ones and those in disuse, were docked at this popular river place. George and Cotton bought a one-hundred-foot, steel-hulled, Irish-manufactured Tyrone ferry and, now with George M. Chinn as the skipper, began to convert it into a huge Kentucky River houseboat.² They named it theIron Dukeand installed a small propeller on its stern that could move them along at a snail’s pace to environs around Mundy’s Landing.³ Within weeks of his return from...

  7. 4 Semper Fi
    (pp. 61-78)

    The more Captain Chinn struggled with weight issues (at one time in his career, he had to buckle two belts at his waist to keep his pants up), the more his good intentions fell apart.¹ At one base he lost seventy pounds, only to gain it back at the next post. He joined enlisted personnel in what was essentially basic training at Quantico in Virginia, some forty miles south of Washington, DC, climbing obstacle courses, taking hikes, crawling on his belly, and the like. He quipped one time that the recruits, all of whom were much younger than he, seemed...

  8. 5 “Whose History Is It, Anyway?”
    (pp. 79-96)

    As the 1950s progressed, the colonel constantly grumbled about having nothing to do, even considering himself unemployed. As he complained of ennui, he continued to work on the M-19, wrote (with a secretarial staff) the last volumes of his masterpiece on the machine gun, visited Frankfort as often as he could (where his old buddy Happy Chandler kept saying he’d find something for him to do), and became interested in local subjects such as historical preservation, especially of nearby Fort Harrod, civic clubs, and even the humane society. On top of all these “nondoings,” he was frequently invited to speak...

  9. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  10. 6 Back to the Cave
    (pp. 97-106)

    Despite world travels, military armament duties, and KHS responsibilities, George Morgan Chinn never forgot the Cave House on Highway 68 that he and Cotton had lovingly run for some years. They closed it in 1938 because profits were dwindling and because George sensed strongly that his military career loomed in the short distance. Around that time, for $1 a year, Chinn leased the front parts of the cave to the U.S. Navy for ordnance experiments. While on active duty, he frequently thought about the cave, considering what he and Cotton might do with it once he returned to civilian life....

  11. 7 Action at the Kentucky Historical Society, 1959–1973
    (pp. 107-130)

    Colonel George M. Chinn wore many hats during the 1960s and early 1970s. He was a caveman, hoping to find uncharted caverns out on Highway 68; head of a significant branch of state government, the Kentucky Historical Society; a governmental consultant on military ordnance, especially from a base in Louisville, where he had a direct telephone line; and a much-indemand public speaker. Taking charge of the KHS in 1959, over time he identified several matters that, in his opinion, needed priority status.

    One of these major tasks was to enlarge KHS membership throughout the state, and then increase patronage of...

  12. 8 The World According to Chinn
    (pp. 131-144)

    If Colonel Chinn thought he could just walk away in comfort, peace, and serenity from KHS and return to Mercer County to live a trouble-free life with Cotton in their palatial home atop a hill overlooking the palisades of the Kentucky River, he was sadly mistaken. One of his earliest projects back in Harrodsburg dealt with activities of the Mercer County Humane Society. He always had a soft touch for animals, especially dogs. Prior to his and Joan Brooke-Smith’s involvement, the policy of the humane society was to capture, kill, and then dump unwanted cats and dogs into the local...

  13. Conclusion: An Assessment of Colonel George Morgan Chinn
    (pp. 145-148)

    The meaning of the wordmaverickis elusive both in definition and connotation. In Peter Mark Roget’sInternational Thesaurus(sixth edition, 2001; entry 361.6), there are over two dozen synonyms given for the word. They includebullethead, pighead, hardnose, bigot, fanatic, andpurist. None of these terms quite captures the colonel’s character, though another entry,hardhead, comes close.

    Another entry in Roget’sThesaurus(868.3) lists “maverick” characteristics—some hundred of them, in fact: “eccentricity,” “originality,” “unconformist,” “out of bounds,” “out of step,” and dozens more. George Morgan Chinn inherited enough maverick qualities from his Uncle Kit and grandfather John Pendleton...

  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 149-154)
  15. Appendix A: Chinn’s Education, Awards, and Achievements
    (pp. 155-156)
  16. Appendix B: Chinn’s Publications
    (pp. 157-158)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 159-178)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-186)
  19. Index
    (pp. 187-196)