Carlos Ray “Chuck” Norris (born March 10, 1940) is an American martial artist and actor. He is a black belt in Tang Soo Do, Brazilian jiu jitsu and judo. After serving in the United States Air Force, Norris won many martial arts championships and later founded his own discipline Chun Kuk Do. Shortly after, in Hollywood, Norris trained celebrities in martial arts. Norris went on to appear in a minor role in the spy film The Wrecking Crew (1969). Friend and fellow martial artist Bruce Lee invited him to play one of the main villains in Way of the Dragon (1972).
While Norris continued acting, friend and student Steve McQueen suggested he take it seriously. Norris took the starring role in the action film Breaker! Breaker! (1977), which turned a profit. His second lead Good Guys Wear Black (1978) became a hit, and he soon became a popular action film star.
Norris went on to star in a streak of bankable independently-made action and martial arts films, with A Force of One (1979), The Octagon (1980), and An Eye for an Eye (1981). This made Norris an international celebrity.
He went on to make studio films like Silent Rage (1982) with Columbia, Forced Vengeance (1982) with MGM, and Lone Wolf McQuade (1983) with Orion. This led Cannon Films to sign Norris into a multiple film deal, starting with Missing in Action (1984), which proved to be very successful and launched a trilogy. Norris started to work almost exclusively on high-profile action films with Cannon, becoming their leading star during the 1980s. Films with Cannon included Invasion U.S.A (1985), The Delta Force (1986), Firewalker (1986), etc. Apart from the Cannon films, Norris made Code of Silence (1985), which was received as one of his best films.
In the 1990s, he played the title role in the long running CBS television series Walker, Texas Ranger from 1993 until 2001. Until 2006, Norris continued taking lead roles in action movies, including Delta Force 2 (1990), The Hitman (1991), Sidekicks (1992), Forest Warrior (1996), The President’s Man (2000) and its sequel (2002). Norris made his last film appearance to date in Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables 2 (2012).
Throughout his film and TV career Norris diversified from his regular endeavors. He is a noted writer, having penned books on martialarts, exercise, philosophy, politics, Christianity, western fiction, and biography. He was twice a New York Times bestselling author, first with his book on his personal philosophy of positive force and the psychology of self-improvement based on personal anecdotes called The Secret of Inner Strength: My Story (1988). His second New York Times Best Seller, Black Belt Patriotism: How to Reawaken America (2008), was about his critique on current issues in the USA. Norris also appeared in several commercials endorsing several products most notably being one of the main spokespersons for the Total Gym infomercials. In 2005, Norris found new fame on the Internet when Chuck Norris facts became an Internet meme documenting humorous, fictional and often absurd feats of strength and endurance. Although Norris himself did not produce the “facts”, he was hired to endorse many products that incorporated Chuck Norris facts in advertising. The phenomenon resulted in six books (two of them New York Times best sellers), two video games, and several appearances on talk shows, such as Late Night with Conan O’Brien where he read the facts or participated in sketches.
Norris was born in Ryan, Oklahoma, on March 10, 1940, to Wilma (née Scarberry) and Ray Dee Norris, who was a World War II Army soldier, a mechanic, bus driver, and truck driver. Norris has stated that he has Irish and Cherokee roots. Norris was named after Carlos Berry, his father’s minister. He was the oldest of three brothers, the younger two being Wieland and Aaron. When Norris was sixteen, his parents divorced, and he later relocated to Prairie Village, Kansas and then to Torrance, California with his mother and brothers.
Norris has described his childhood as downbeat. He was nonathletic, shy, and scholastically mediocre. His father, Ray, worked intermittently as an automobile mechanic, and went on alcohol drinking binges that lasted for months at a time. Embarrassed by his father’s behavior and the family’s financial plight, Norris developed a debilitating introversion that lasted for his entire childhood.
Norris married his classmate Dianne Kay Holechek (born 1941) in December 1958 when he was 18 and Dianne was 17 years of age. They met in 1956 at high school in Torrance, California. In 1962, their first child, Mike, was born. He also had a daughter Dina who was born in 1963 of an extramarital affair. Later, he had a second son, Eric, with his wife in 1964. After 30 years of marriage, Norris and Holechek divorced in 1989, after separating in 1988, during the filming of The Delta Force 2.
On November 28, 1998, he married former model Gena O’Kelley, 23 years Norris’s junior. O’Kelley had two children from a previous marriage. She delivered twins on August 30, 2001.
On September 22, 2004, Norris told Entertainment Tonight’s Mary Hart that he did not meet his illegitimate daughter from a past relationship until she was 26, although she learned that he was her father when she was 16. He met her after she sent a letter informing him of their relationship in 1990, one year after Norris’s divorce with his first wife Dianne Holechek.
Norris has thirteen grandchildren as of 2017.
An outspoken Christian, Norris is the author of several Christian-themed books. On April 22, 2008, Norris expressed his support for the intelligent design movement when he reviewed Ben Stein’s Expelled for Townhall.com.
He is Baptist and a member of the Prestonwood Baptist Church (Southern Baptist Convention) in Dallas.
In 1990, Norris established the United Fighting Arts Federation and Kickstart Kids. As a significant part of his philanthropic contributions, the organization was formed to develop self-esteem and focus in at-risk children as a tactic to keep them away from drug-related pressure by training them in martial arts. Norris hopes that by shifting middle school and high school children’s focus towards this positive and strengthening endeavor, these children will have the opportunity to build a better future for themselves. Norris has a ranch in Navasota, Texas, where they[ bottle water; a portion of the sales support environmental funds and Kickstart Kids.
He is known for his contributions towards organizations such as Funds for Kids, Veteran’s Administration National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans, the United Way, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the form of donations as well as fund-raising activities.
His time with the U.S. Veterans Administration as a spokesperson was inspired by his experience serving the United States Air Force in Korea. His objective has been to popularize the issues that concern hospitalized war veterans such as pensions and health care. Due to his significant contributions, and continued support, he received the Veteran of the Year award in 2001 at the American Veteran Awards.
In India, Norris supports the Vijay Amritraj Foundation, which aims to help victims of disease, tragedy and circumstance. Through his donations, he has helped the foundation support Paediatric HIV/AIDS homes in Delhi, a blind school in Karnataka, and a mission that cares for HIV/AIDS-infected adults, as well as mentally ill patients in Cochin.