Chuck Norris recently celebrated his mother’s 102nd birthday with a heartfelt message honoring the woman he describes as “so full of life that she might make it another 100 years!” In a letter to his mom, Wilma, Chuck, who turned 83 in March, writes, “Mom, I don’t know what’s more difficult to believe: that you are 102 years old or that you have a son who is 83 years old! Regardless, I’m so grateful you are my mom. I always have been. We’ve been through thick and thin in this life, and we are still going strong.”
Wilma Norris Knight, born in 1921, is Chuck’s mom, and he credits her influence, prayers, and steadfast faith for the man he is today. Despite being raised in poverty and having endured the deaths of two husbands, a stepson, two grandchildren, and Chuck’s younger brother Wieland in the Vietnam War, as well as repeated battles with cancer and 30 different surgeries, Wilma is still here to tell about it.
When Chuck’s father abandoned the family, Wilma raised her three boys, with Chuck being the eldest, as a single mother. Despite the difficulties she faced, she instilled values in her boys and taught them to be fighters. She made them believe that they could achieve anything in life and that, while there would be obstacles, determination would help them overcome any challenge.
Chuck is overwhelmed with gratitude for the influence of three women in his life: his granny Scarberry (Wilma’s mom), who died at 90; his mom, Wilma; and his wife, Gina, whom he married in 1998. The couple has twins, Dakota and Danilee, who were born in 2001.
Chuck Norris, born Carlos Ray in 1940, grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, where he watched stars like John Wayne, Roy Rogers, and Hopalong Cassidy. After graduating high school in 1958, Norris served with the United States Air Force and was stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea, where he planned to train as security police.
It was during his time in South Korea that he earned his black belt in Tang Soo Do, a form of Korean karate, and was given the nickname “Chuck.” After being transferred to an air force base in Riverside County, California, he opened a martial arts studio in Torrance, where he then lived.
His success as a martial artist was exploding, and his studios expanding. Practicing himself, he won his first title in 1968 and held the title of Karate World Champion for six years, retiring in 1974.
During this time, while training celebrities in martial arts, he met Bruce Lee, American martial artist and actor, which led to Chuck’s breakout role as Lee’s nemesis in the film The Way of the Dragon (1972). Norris found sweeping global success—his incredible agility and strength thrilling fans—after landing lead roles in Breaker! Breaker! (1977) and Good Guys Wear Black (1978).
Chuck Norris is one of Hollywood’s all-time greatest action stars, and his mother has been a constant source of inspiration and strength for him throughout his life. As he said of her when she became a centenarian, “Mom has been an example of perseverance and faith her whole life.”