According to an employee of a New Orleans oyster bar who was contacted by the Old Farmer's Almanac, Cooter Brown supposedly lived on the line which divided the North and South during the American Civil War, making him eligible for military draft by either side. He had family on both sides of the line, so he did not want to fight in the war. He decided to get drunk and stay drunk for the duration of the war so that he would be seen as useless for military purposes and would not be drafted. Ever since, colloquial and proverbial ratings of drunkenness have been benchmarked against the legendary drinker: "as drunk as Cooter Brown" or "drunker than Cooter Brown."
Another origin story
Another version of the Cooter Brown story: Cooter Brown was a biracial man (half Cherokee, half Black) who lived in southern Louisiana on a small plot of land given to him by an old Cajun fur trapper. Cooter lived alone in the old Cajun's shack. When the Civil War broke out, Cooter didn't want to choose sides, because he didn't know who might win. He didn't like people much and was fearful of both sides. Because of this, Cooter, who was a heavy drinker anyway, began drinking all the time. Cooter always dressed like an Indian so as to confirm the fact that he was an Indian and not a Black man. And as such, he was a free man. Whenever soldiers (Yanks or Rebels) showed-up in the area they would always find him drunk. Often he'd offer the soldiers a drink. Word began to spread about the crazy, drunken Indian named Cooter Brown. By the time the war ended, Cooter couldn't have stopped drinking even if he had wanted to. One night his shack caught fire and burned completely to the ground. When locals investigated the burned site the next day there was nothing that remained of Cooter's body. They surmised that old Cooter had so much alcohol in him that he had just burned up. Since then Cooter Brown has been synonymous with inebriation."
Appearance of the word in print in 1948
Despite stories which depict the origin of Cooter Brown in the Civil War, the first instance of the term being used in a published book in the Google database of books is in 1948. No books in the database include the term from 1955 to 1959. The term became much more common in the data base in the 1980's and continued to appear more through the 2000's and 2010's. The database of books does not include all printed matter so it is possible that the story did originate earlier and was not referenced in print or was referenced in printed material not in the Google database.
- A song on Jazz singer Cassandra Wilson's album Belly of the Sun is titled 'Drunk as Cooter Brown'.
- A song on Houston rapper Devin The Dude's album To Tha X-Treme is named 'Cooter Brown'.
- A song on North American old-timey band Who Hit John's album Heirloom is named 'Cooter Brown'.
- A song by North Carolina Celtic punk band My Three Kilts is named Cooter Brown.
- An 80 Proof blended whiskey bottled by the Gatlinburg Barrelhouse in Gatlinburg, Tennessee bears the name "Genuine Cooter Brown Blended Whiskey." 
- A disc jockey from Ter Apel, the Netherlands uses the name Boppin' Cooter Brown.
- Cootie Brown is a fictional character made familiar by the band Mossy Oak from the White Mills, KY area in the early 2000s. The character was known for his infamous drunken stupors, and characterized as a daily fisherman.
Cootie Brown held any job that fit the situation. He was known all over the south for his various stages of drunkenness since at least the late 50s or earlier.
- Cootie Brown's Restaurant is a popular, locally owned eatery in Johnson City, Tennessee, and whose walls are adorned with whimsical murals depicting his various adventures.
- Cooter Brown's Tavern & Oyster Bar has operated in New Orleans, Louisiana since 1977, and is decorated with carved caricatures of late celebrities.
- Cooter Brown's Twisted Southern Cooking is a restaurant located in Rehoboth Avenue in Rehoboth Beach Delaware. As the name suggests, they specialize in southern cooking, particularly bourbon.
- Keith Anderson's song 'Three Chord Country And American Rock & Roll' includes the lines: "Park our pick-ups in a circle, Let the tailgates down. Laugh while everybody's gettin' drunk as Cooter Brown."
- Cooter Brown's is a southern Sports Bar in Altamonte Springs, FL., on Hwy 436 Semoran Blvd. There is also a southern sports bar and grill in Jay Florida spelled as Kooter Brown's
- Cooter Brown's is a rib and barbecue grill and bar located in Jacksonville, Alabama just outside the Jacksonville State University Campus.
- Cooter Brown is also a brown ale from a brewery in Alpharetta, Georgia named Jekyll Brewing.
- Cooter Brown is the bassist of the American stoner metal band Bongzilla.
- In the 1980 movie Urban Cowboy John Travolta's character Bud Davis is told not to get in a fight because he's "drunker than Cooter Brown".
- "Who was Cooter Brown, as in "drunk as Cooter Brown"?". Almanac.com. Retrieved 2013-11-04.
- "The Origin of the Phrase "Drunk as Cooter Brown" Dates Back from the American Civil War and Refers to a Heavy Drinker Who Escaped Being Drafted Due to His Continuous Intoxication". War History Online.com. Retrieved 2018-04-26.
- "Google Books Ngram Viewer". Google Books Ngram Viewer. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
- "Gatlinburg Barrelhouse". Gatlinburg Barrelhouse. Retrieved 2013-11-04.
- "Cooter Brown's". Cooter Brown's. Retrieved 2014-07-17.