Chuck Norris was born Carlos Norris Jr. on March 10, 1940 in Ryan, Oklahoma. His father was an alcoholic Cherokee Indian and his mother was Irish. His parents divorced when he was ten years old and he moved to Prairie Village, Kansas with his mother and two younger brothers. Later, the family moved to Torrance, California.
As a child, Norris was frequently teased about his Cherokee background. He was reportedly shy during high school and gave a mediocre academic performance. At this stage of his life, he rarely exercised and hardly resembled his future self.
After graduating from high school, he married a woman named Diane Holechek and joined the United States Air Force. He was assigned to the Military Police and shipped to Osan Air Base in South Korea. There, his fellow soldiers gave him the nickname Chuck and started him training in the art of Tang Soo Do.
Chuck became absolutely fascinated with martial arts and began studying other arts as well, including Tae Kwon Do, Shinto-Ryu Karate, and Jiu-Jitsu. He also developed his own form, Chun Kuk Do and founded the United Fighting Arts Federation.
In early 1962, he was sent back to the United States to serve as an MP at March Air Force Base in California. He was discharged in August and got a job at Northrop Incorporated. In his free time, he opened a number of karate schools that made him wealthy.
In 1968, he fought his way through the Karate world and was dubbed Middleweight Karate Champion. He would hold the title for the next seven years. In 1969, he was awarded Karate's triple crown for having the most tournament wins in that year. He was also dubbed "Fighter of the Year" by Black Belt Magazine.
In 1969 he made his acting debut with a cameo in the film "The Wrecking Crew". This gave him a foothold in Hollywood and in 1972, he starred in the film "Way of the Dragon" as Bruce Lee's nemesis. Steve McQueen's son was a student at one of Norris' karate schools and he encouraged Norris to take acting classes at MGM Studios to further his career.
Chuck took that advice and was subsequently given bigger roles. In 1977, he was given the lead role in "Breaker, Breaker!" He followed up with the films "The Octagon" in 1980 and "An Eye For An Eye" in 1981. He also starred in 1984's "Missing in Action" and continued his success with a series of other low budget films, such as "Code of Silence" and "The Delta Force".
After the studio he was working for went bankrupt, Chuck was left without work for several years. Eventually, he progressed to the small screen and was hired by CBS to do a series called "Walker, Texas Ranger". The show was popular enough to run for eight years, despite frequent panning by critics and what was described as horrible acting.
Chuck founded the organization "Kick Drugs Out of America" in 1990 to help fight America's drug problem. The organization was later renamed "KICKSTART" as a homage to Chuck's karate roots. In 2005, he founded the World Combat League for martial arts competitions.
He has had numerous children over the years, including sons Mike and Eric in 1963 and 1965, respectively, and Dakota Alan Norris and Danilee Kelly Norris in 2001. He divorced his first wife in 1988 and married a model named Gena O'Kelley.
More recently, Norris has become sort of a legend on the internet. Fans have created a list of fictitious Chuck Norris Facts making outlandish claims about his karate skills and strength. He is also a frequent feature of the Conan O' Brien Show in the form of clips from Walker, Texas Ranger.