Chuck Norris — the man, the myth, the legend — was born on March 10, 1940, in Ryan, Oklahoma. We’re celebrating his action-filled years by looking back at how his legacy started and where he is now. Norris is globally known and recognized as the star of various action films, including “The Hitman,” “The Delta Force,” “Missing in Action,” and more. Not only is Norris a well-known actor and martial artist, but he is also the focus of countless Chuck Norris memes that were created by his fans from the early 2000s until now.
When the name Chuck Norris comes up in a conversation, most of us immediately think of action movies, martial arts, and, of course, the timeless Chuck Norris memes. So, where did it all start? Norris and his two younger brothers were born in Ryan, Oklahoma, to Wilma Scarberry and Ray Norris. Norris’ parents divorced early in his childhood, and he moved to Torrance, California, with his mother and his brothers. Norris attended North Torrance High School where he joined the U.S. Air Force soon after graduation.
During his time in the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s, he started studying martial arts, and when he returned home from, he worked for Northrop Aviation and became a karate instructor. In 1958, Norris married his high school sweetheart Dianne Holechek and they had two sons together. The couple divorced in 1989.
His karate instructor profession quickly reached great heights because he taught full-time while managing various martial arts schools during the 1960s. During this time, Norris taught karate to big names, including Steve McQueen, Priscilla Presley, and the Osmond family. He began competing in martial arts competitions and initially faced defeats, including losses to Joe Lewis and Allen Steen. However, by 1967, he began to achieve victories, eventually becoming the champion of the 1967 tournament of karate and winning the S. Henry Cho’s All-American Karate Championship at Madison Square Garden in June 1967. In early 1968, he suffered his final career loss but came back to win the Professional Middleweight Karate champion title, which he held for six consecutive years, retiring undefeated after defending his All-American Karate Championship title in 1968. During this time, he also met and developed a friendship with Bruce Lee, leading to a training and working relationship.
Norris became popular in the film industry during the 1970s and landed his first starring role in the action film “Breaker! Breaker!” in 1977. His acting career started to slow down in the early 1990s, during which he stopped making movies and made the shift to the small screen. He starred in “Walker, Texas Ranger,” the role he’s most well known for, which first aired in 1993 and ran for nine seasons.
He married former model Gena O’Kelly in November 1998, and the couple welcomed twins on August 30, 2001.
Soon after Norris joins the U.S. Air Force as an air policeman, he is introduced to martial arts and opens his own martial arts studio, Chun Kuk Do.
In June 1967, Norris is crowned the Grand Champion, after four wins and only one loss.
He lands his very first starring role in “Breaker! Breaker!” as a rugged truck driver, searching for his brother in a town run by a corrupt judge.
He stars in T.V. show “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
Norris becomes the first Westerner to obtain an eight-degree Taekwondo black belt.
Norris’ autobiography — “Against All Odds: My Story” is published and becomes a "New York Times" Bestseller.
Why We Love Chuck Norris
His martial arts skills
Norris is a highly skilled martial artist and has demonstrated his skill in countless action movies. His expertise has earned him respect and admiration in the industry.
He honors his brother
Norris’ younger brother enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1970 and died while serving in South Vietnam. After his death, Norris and his other brother went to great lengths to honor this hero, including all the “Missing in Action” films that are dedicated to him.
Norris’ love for his wife
In 2017, his wife Gena O’Kelly developed a strange illness and after getting multiple MRI scans it was revealed to be gadolinium poisoning. Norris decided to leave his acting career behind to look after her while raising awareness of the potential side effects of gadolinium.
5 Surprising Facts
The Chuck Norris system
In 1990, Norris invented his own martial arts style based on his Tang Soo Do training in Korea, formerly known as “Chun Kuk Do.”
Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee
Norris and Lee met in 1968 at a Karate Tournament they even trained together for two years in Norris’ backyard.
He has an illegitimate daughter
Norris has revealed that he didn't meet her until she was 26.
The reason Norris started acting
It was Bruce Lee who encouraged Norris to start acting, which ultimately led to his acting career.
He could fence
Norris used to dabble in competitive fencing during his early years.
Chuck Norris FAQs
What is Chuck Norris doing now?
Norris is currently living his life with his wife and two children on his range in Texas.
How does Chuck Norris stay healthy?
He eats a healthy high-protein diet consisting of mostly fish, turkey, and egg whites.
Is Chuck Norris part Indian?
Norris is both Irish and Cherokee Indian.
Chuck Norris’s birthday dates