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 Conclusion An Assessment of Colonel George Morgan Chinn The meaning of the word maverick is elusive both in definition and connotation. In Peter Mark Roget’s International Thesaurus (sixth edition, 2001; entry 361.6), there are over two dozen synonyms given for the word. They include bullethead, pighead, hardnose, bigot, fanatic, and purist. None of these terms quite captures the colonel’s character, though another entry, hardhead, comes close. Another entry in Roget’s Thesaurus (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 Chinn to come naturally to some of these descriptions . Even at an early age, “eccentricity” was certainly apparent. Some of the stories he wrote for Centre’s newspaper, Cento, and for the Harrodsburg Advocate in the 1920s would have been considered “far out” in the 1960s. “Unconformity” was definitely a Chinn trait. When he worked on military weapons and other devices, he went his own way, even sometimes overruling superior officers in significant decisions. He did this not by rebelling against the government but by using sweet reason on his commanders to show them that on particular projects he was right and they wrong. In most instances, the officers listened well and 145 Kentucky Maverick 146 came to agree with Colonel Chinn. It was well that they did, for Chinn helped to supply weapons to the most advanced and sophisticated armed forces in the world at that time—and, for that matter, throughout history. He could be called “out of bounds,” but only compared with the general society in which he lived. Within his professions (military weaponry, history, and directorship of KHS) he was rarely out of bounds. He may have sworn like a sailor in disapproval of some of the conditions he found in the various military and library facilities he came across, but generally he worked well within the parameters of rules and regulations that had been laid out for each discipline. “Out of step” was definitely a Chinn trait, but again within the entire society, not particularly in the disciplines with which he was identified. One of the reasons he so strongly supported the Young Historians was to wean them away from television and other distractions to embrace the study of their country’s history and other academic subjects. All societies could use the services of a Colonel Chinn. This is especially true of democratic societies. It is all too easy, even in a democracy, for citizens to respond to the rantings of demagogues . Colonel Chinn did not invent the phrase “Get a life,” but he just as well might have. Live your own life (instead of vicariously through celebrities and “heroes”) with your own experiences of happiness, sadness, victory, defeat, rest, tiredness, and all the other things we come to know during our passage through this world. And, above all else, the colonel adjured us never, never to automatically accept anyone else’s ideas unless and until you have thoroughly analyzed them for yourself. Total conformity, Chinn would assuredly argue, is the worst thing that can happen to a democracy. Historically, American society has lauded mavericks—if primarily in the abstract—admiring their independence of mind, their determination to speak their own thoughts rather than merely accept somebody else’s. However, when a real maver- Conclusion 147 ick comes along, the public is first amused and bemused, then frightened by the unorthodox opinions, and finally outraged with the maverick’s outlook. Mavericks are never afraid to ask even high-ranking members of government, academia, intelligentsia , and so on the questions they believe need answers. Did it ever occur to Colonel Chinn that his role in the Marine Corps put him in the category of “high society,” not only in the military but throughout the civilian populace as well? If this didn’t, his directorship of the Kentucky Historical Society surely did. He loved to lead, primarily by example. As a colonel in the Marine Corps he gave orders sparingly; in fact, he received more orders than he gave, an unusual situation for such a high-ranking officer. No matter if one liked or hated Colonel Chinn, almost everyone agreed that he had been instrumental in helping to win World War II and come to a truce with North Korea. As a library director, he exhibited executive qualities perhaps more than as a weapons...


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