Chinn was already a legend in Madison County, Mississippi, because of his unwillingness to bend to white power. David Dennis, then CORE’s Mississippi project director, recalls being in the courtroom of the county courthouse in Canton, Mississippi one morning in 1963, attending a bond hearing for a volunteer who had been arrested on a traffic violation, when C.O. Chinn walked in. Chinn was wearing a holstered pistol on his hip, which probably would not have raised an eyebrow if he had been white.
“Now C.O,” drawled the judge, “You know you can’t come in here wearing that gun.” Madison County Sheriff Billy Noble, was also in the courtroom; Chinn looked over at him, and responded, “As long as that S.O.B. over there is wearing his, I’m gonna keep mine.”
The enmity between Chinn and the sheriff was well known throughout the county and, half-expecting a shootout, Dave Dennis thought to himself, “We’re all dead.” But the judge spoke coaxingly to both men: “Boys, boys, no. Why don’t you put your guns on the table over here on the table in front of the bench. Let’s be good boys.” Both men walked to the table, and -- eyeing one another “very carefully,” Dennis remembers -- set their pistols down.