CBN.com He grew up dirt poor in rural Oklahoma. He had a God-fearing mother and an alcoholic father. His boyhood heroes were the cowboy film stars of yesteryear: Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy. In the cinematic Old West, good always triumphed over evil. It’s a theme that carried Carlos, or as we know him today, Chuck Norris, from hardship to wholeness. Against all odds, Chuck Norris became more than just a Hollywood film and television star.
SCOTT ROSS: I’m a cowboy at heart. My early heroes were the same guys, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, John Wayne, so when I watch Walker, I mean, to have a cowboy hero, what is it about heroes and cowboys?
CHUCK NORRIS: I don’t know because growing up, not having a father around, you have to create your own image of a father, and that became the image of a father that I would like to have had.
SCOTT ROSS (reporting): Chuck’s father abandoned the family, so his mother moved her three sons to California. Life was tough, but she was a God-fearing woman. Chuck admits he was a very insecure young man.
SCOTT ROSS: It’s an interesting paradox, perhaps to the image of the Chuck Norris who goes around kicking hindermost parts, that you’re basically a shy guy.
CHUCK NORRIS: Yes.
SCOTT ROSS: You’re not really an aggressive person at all.
CHUCK NORRIS: No.
SCOTT ROSS: What is that thing in you, then, that as a shy person that you molded this other thing that people look in your eyes and say, 'Back off'?
CHUCK NORRIS: It’s a determination because I grew up extremely shy and introverted all my life -- and non-athletic. People have a hard time believing that, but again, not having a father around, being shy, I just never participated in sports that much. It wasn’t until I went to Korea out of high school and got exposed to the martial arts for the first time and was just completely enamored with the physical ability of the martial arts and making my black belt.
SCOTT ROSS (reporting): After serving in the Air Force, Chuck returned to the States and immediately capitalized on his martial arts training. Within a decade, he was a six-time undefeated World Middleweight Karate Champion and the owner of numerous karate schools. His name was synonymous with the martial arts. By his mid '30s, Chuck took a giant leap into acting. He wrote and starred in his first film, Good Guys Wear Black. Chuck was now a box office success.
SCOTT ROSS: It was not a big-budget film at all.
CHUCK NORRIS: A million dollars.
SCOTT ROSS: A million dollars to make it? How much did you make on it?
CHUCK NORRIS: Twenty-eight million.
SCOTT ROSS: Not bad!
CHUCK NORRIS: It was amazing because at that time I was living a secular life.
SCOTT ROSS: When you were a kid, you had made some commitment to the Lord. There was an event you attended. It was a Billy Graham crusade, and you committed your life to the Lord.
CHUCK NORRIS: I gave my life to the Lord at 12. I was baptized at 12. Then it grew stronger. And when I got to go to a crusade for Billy Graham, unfortunately a lot of times in the entertainment industry, sometimes you lose sight of what’s really important in your life. I lost a marriage because of it.
SCOTT ROSS: Bruce Lee; Steve McQueen; a tragic story, your brother; Dan Blocker; Michael Landon; Lee Atwater; Robert Urich – if we live long enough, we’re going to see many of our friends pass away.
CHUCK NORRIS: Oh yeah.
SCOTT ROSS: And in each case, it had a serious, profound affect on you. What was it that death said to you in the midst of your life, and where was God? What do you think God was saying to you in the middle of those moments?
CHUCK NORRIS: The one that had the most affect on me was Lee Atwater. He was former President Bush’s [George Bush Sr.] campaign manager. Lee was in his early '30s. He was just an incredible guy. When Lee got a tumor, the tumor in his brain, his head swelled up to the size of a pumpkin. When he was in the hospital dying, I went to visit him. He only let a very select group of people come in to see him, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the people. So I go in there, and there’s, like, four of us in there, and Lee looks at me and he motions for me to come forward. I step forward. He starts trying to talk to me, so I have to bend down because he can just barely whisper. I bent down, and he says, 'Chuck, trust in the Lord. I love you.' That’s the last thing he said. I was like in shock there for a moment, so I stepped back and I had to leave immediately because I was starting to cry. I went in the car and just started crying. When Lee said that, 'trust in the Lord,' all of a sudden, I said, 'That’s what’s happening because I drifted away from my faith.' I started thinking about it, but I was still so wrapped up in the entertainment field and trying to be more successful in my acting that, again, I just kind of let it slide out of the side of my head there.
SCOTT ROSS (reporting): It was easy for matters like faith, immortality, and the meaning of life to take a back seat to fame and fortune. After all, Chuck was now riding high on the success of his celebrity and his television series, Walker, Texas Ranger.
CHUCK NORRIS: Finally, my best friend said, 'You have got to get your act together. You are really not a happy guy. There’s a woman I want you to meet. I’m going to invite her to Dallas.'
SCOTT ROSS: Gena, you’d been married previously. Did you know of this guy?
GENA NORRIS: Never knew of him.
SCOTT ROSS: Come on!
GENA NORRIS: Never knew of him.
SCOTT ROSS: You didn’t know he’d fought Bruce Lee?
GENA NORRIS: I was raising two kids, so I worked all the time. I didn’t get to watch TV.
SCOTT ROSS: Yeah, but this is Walker.
GENA NORRIS: I didn’t know what Walker was. But after we had a chance to talk and get to know each other, there was something in his eyes, something in his eyes that really attracted me to him. It was almost like I could see into his soul. I could just tell that he was a tender, kind person, somebody that I’d like to get to know a little bit better, a man of integrity.
SCOTT ROSS (reporting): In his book, Against All Odds, Chuck candidly shares how he and Gena were both brought back to a committed relationship with Christ while living together before they married. They speak openly about the "sin" they were in -- a rare word these days-- and how their pastor led them to repentance. It was the turning point in their lives and relationship.
GENA NORRIS: I committed my life to Christ at the age of 26. Actually our backgrounds are very similar because I was raised in a Baptist upbringing and I loved Jesus with all my heart, but I completely drifted. Then at the age of 26, I had a really radical conversion. I don’t know how to explain it any other way. I was just so excited
SCOTT ROSS: Yet, and you guys bring this up in the book, you moved in together and cohabitated.
GENA NORRIS: We did things that were definitely wrong. When you have the Holy Spirit reigning inside of you, you can’t run. You cannot run. I mean, there’s always that conviction
SCOTT ROSS: Did you talk about that?
CHUCK NORRIS: Yes.
GENA NORRIS: We did.
SCOTT ROSS: Did you say, 'We’re violating our own principles and standards and ethics'?
GENA NORRIS: We did. And what kind of an example are we setting for our children or our grandchildren and to other people who maybe are thinking about a walk with the Lord but they’re like, 'If they’re doing this, then how can it be real'? All those sort of things start really weighing on you.
CHUCK NORRIS: When I wrote this book, I wanted to pour my soul out. I wanted people to know.
GENA NORRIS: Be completely transparent.
CHUCK NORRIS: I didn’t want to hide things in this book. There are a lot of things in the book, a lot of mistakes I made in my life that come out in this book.
SCOTT ROSS: The truth will set you free.
SCOTT ROSS (reporting): In Christ, Chuck and Gena began a new life together. Before long, they had company. Twins Dakota and Danilee graced the Norris household with special joy.
SCOTT ROSS: When you look back, I mean, the shy kid, the drunken father, and the failures of life, you’ve got to be dumbfounded by some of this.
GENA NORRIS: We’re thankful.
CHUCK NORRIS: It’s amazing because people come up to me and say, 'Chuck, you’re the luckiest guy in the world to be a world karate champion and a movie and TV star.' When they say this to me, I kind of smile because luck had nothing to do with it; God had everything to do with it.
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