Against All Odds

Overview

Millions of people around the world know Chuck Norris as the star of more than 20 motion pictures, including “Delta Force,” “Missing in Action,” and “Return of the Dragon.” Millions more know him as a martial arts expert, the only man in the Western Hemisphere to hold an 8th degree Black Belt Grand Master in Tae Kwon Do. And then there are others who know him from his eight seasons on CBS’s longest running series, “Walker, Texas Ranger.” What many don't know is that Chuck Norris is a sincere Christian—a man whose...
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Overview

Millions of people around the world know Chuck Norris as the star of more than 20 motion pictures, including “Delta Force,” “Missing in Action,” and “Return of the Dragon.” Millions more know him as a martial arts expert, the only man in the Western Hemisphere to hold an 8th degree Black Belt Grand Master in Tae Kwon Do. And then there are others who know him from his eight seasons on CBS’s longest running series, “Walker, Texas Ranger.” What many don't know is that Chuck Norris is a sincere Christian—a man whose faith plays a role in everything he does. Against All Odds is an inspirational story of how Norris overcame abject poverty from childhood, the effects of his father’s alcoholism and desertion of the family, and his own shyness and lack of strength and ability early in his life. Norris writes candidly about how he was able to overcome such obstacles in his life—giving full credit to God.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this autobiography, Norris and Abraham catalogue in a mostly chronological fashion the major events of Norris's Horatio Alger-like life. After a tumultuous and impoverished childhood marred by an alcoholic father, Norris turned his life around by joining the military and learning a martial art, tang soo do, while stationed in Korea. Having achieved a black belt, he returned to the United States and built a career as a karate instructor, winning six world championships. Norris counted many celebrities among his students, including Steve McQueen, who, along with Bruce Lee, encouraged Norris to pursue a film and television career. Even though Norris and Abraham employ a bland style of reportage, often bereft of smooth transitions and replete with empty phrases such as "I've always had a special place in my heart for children," the facts of Norris's life make this book compelling. Not only has he succeeded in martial arts and acting, but he has a long, eclectic list of additional achievements and experiences, such as breaking a world record in boat racing and being a close friend of the Bush family. While this book is being promoted as a Christian autobiography, Norris did not fully embrace a Christian lifestyle until the mid-1990s. Despite its limited spiritual content, this memoir will please those who admire Norris's achievements and conservative activism. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786275199
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 4/20/2005
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Read an Excerpt

AGAINST ALL ODDS

my story
By CHUCK NORRIS Ken Abraham

Broadman & Holman Publishers

Copyright © 2004 Carlos Ray Norris
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8054-3161-6


Chapter One

I could tell that something was wrong the moment I caught my security guard's eye. I was in Washington, D.C., seated on the dais as a special guest of the newly elected President of the United States, George W. Bush. About five thousand of the president's friends-many of whom had played key roles in helping George W. Bush get elected-were in attendance, the men decked out in tuxedoes and the women in extravagant evening gowns. The first Presidential Dinner of the new administration had been a happy, gala affair, and I had enjoyed the evening immensely.

At about 10:30 PM, the President and First Lady said good-night and had exited the room, and I was getting ready to follow suit. I stepped off the platform, shaking hands and greeting each person as I made my way through the crowd. The room was filled with friendly faces, so it struck me as odd when I noticed my security guard, Phil Cameron, frowning and motioning in my direction. I knew something must be seriously wrong, or Phil would never interrupt me on such a momentous occasion. I wedged my way through the well-wishers until Phil and I were standing side-by-side.

"We've had an emergency telephone call, Mr. Norris. Your wife is in the hospital; she's going into preterm labor."

"What? That can't be! Gena is only twenty-three weeks along; she is nowhere near the thirty-eight weeks of a full-term pregnancy!"

"I don't know anything about that, sir. All I know is that she told me to contact you as soon as possible."

I rushed to the phone and called the hospital. The operator connected me to Gena's room, and when she answered, I could tell that she had been crying.

"Sweetheart, I'm so sorry I'm not there with you. Are you OK?"

"I'm fine, but I needed to get to the hospital right away. They have to surgically close my cervix to save our babies."

I could tell by the quiver in her voice that Gena was trying desperately to hold her emotions in check.

"Carlos, I'm scared," she admitted as she started to cry. "I'm scared for our babies."

"Honey. I'm calling the pilots right now. I'll be by your side just as fast as the jet can get me there."

We were expecting twins, a boy and a girl. Gena and I had already seen them on the ultrasound machine in the doctor's office, watching excitedly like two young kids ourselves as our babies moved around, bumping into each other in Gena's crowded womb. We'd even named them already; our little girl we named Danilee and our little boy. Dakota.

The pregnancy had been horrendously difficult for Gena. She'd given birth twice before, so she knew the ropes when it came to being pregnant. But carrying these two "miracle babies" had been a heavy load from the beginning. At several points along the way, we'd come close to losing the twins, or Gena, or all three of them. A beautiful yet tough woman, Gena had withstood several highly unusual medical challenges that threatened to end her life, or those of our babies. Had she not been mentally and spiritually strong, and in such excellent physical condition prior to becoming pregnant, her body might not have been able to endure the strain.

When the invitation from the President's office had arrived in our mailbox several weeks earlier, Gena and I were excited about attending. But as the event drew nearer, we realized it might be dangerous for Gena and our babies to be flying across the country from California to Washington, D.C., especially in light of the complications we'd already experienced during the pregnancy. We decided it would be best for Gena to remain at home, and I'd take my brother, Aaron, along with me, and our good friends, Dennis Berman, a successful Dallas businessman who had agreed to be our children's godparent, and John Hensley, the former head of US Customs. Phil Cameron, my personal protection officer, who often accompanied me to events where I'd be in large crowds, had flown ahead to Washington a few days earlier to make sure the details of my trip were in order.

The four of us flew to Washington on a private chartered jet the day of the event. Phil joined us at the Pentagon. We were ushered out to the Pentagon Promenade, where we were greeted by the Air Police honor guard, and I received an achievement award from the Air Force for being an outstanding airman. They also made me an honorary Air Force recruiter. We posed for a photograph on the Promenade, in the exact spot where 9-11 terrorists would crash an airliner a few months later. We spent the remainder of our afternoon touring the Pentagon, having lunch with several generals, and enjoying a fascinating visit with Secret Service Director Brian L. Stafford. We planned to return to California the following morning.

Prior to the Presidential Dinner, the new President and First Lady, Laura Bush, and I posed for a special picture to commemorate the occasion. Ever gracious, the president thanked me for my support and for being a friend of the Bush family. It had been a day to remember, and I could hardly wait to call Gena after the dinner to tell her all about it....

But now Gena was lying in a hospital emergency room in California. Suddenly what really matters in life came into clear focus. In a moment, with one sentence my entire priority list had been altered.

"Call the pilots, Phil. Tell them that we're leaving right now!"

"Yes, sir."

I wanted to get to Gena as soon as possible, so as soon as Phil could rouse the pilots, I wanted to be in the air.

I said my good-byes to the remaining dignitaries still at the gala while Phil contacted the pilots. Between shaking hands, smiling, and offering best wishes, I'd glance in Phil's direction, waiting for his signal that told me we were on our way. It didn't come.

Instead, the look on Phil's face told me that he wasn't pleased. "I've got the pilot on the phone," Phil said, "but you may want to talk to him." Phil handed his cell phone to me.

I took the phone and said, "What's the problem?"

The pilot spoke haltingly, "I'm sorry, Mr. Norris, but my copilot has had a beer, and I'd prefer not to fly tonight."

"What? What do you mean, you prefer not to fly?"

"Well, we really weren't planning on going back to LA tonight, so I didn't think it would matter for him to have a drink. But since he did, it's against regulations for us to fly tonight."

I was furious, but I knew the pilot was right. Under different circumstances, I might even have appreciated his integrity and truthfulness. After all, the pilot could have easily deceived me; he didn't have to tell me. I'd have never known that his copilot had taken a drink, and in light of the emergency, back home, I might not have cared!

"How soon can we leave?" I asked.

"Not before five-thirty tomorrow morning," the pilot replied.

"Five-thirty!" I looked at my watch. It was only eleven o'clock.

There was nothing left to do but try to find alternative transportation. Aaron, Dennis, John, Phil, and I hurried back to my room at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. We tried desperately to get a commercial flight out but to no avail. We called every place we could find, hoping to hire another private plane in D.C., but the earliest we could get another crew to depart was at three-thirty.

Pacing back and forth in the room, my mind raced with the obvious contradictions. I felt so helpless. I had been a six-time World Karate Champion; I had starred in more than twenty-three motion pictures in which I had played a hero; I had more recently starred in Walker, Texas Ranger, my own television series, for eight years, again playing the hero; yet there was nothing I could do to help my wife.

I had earned millions of dollars over my lifetime. I'd been a friend to several presidents, yet all the money in my bank account couldn't help me now. My friendships with men and women of influence were not enough.

There was only one person to whom I could turn. I prayed, "Oh, God, please take care of my wife and our babies."

Phil gave me his cell phone to call Gena at the hospital to tell her that we'd been delayed. I was able to reach her, but she was so distraught and groggy, I could hardly discern a word she said. Gena was able to communicate to me that she was going to be operated on at eight o'clock the following morning. Apparently, the doctor had presented a bleak scenario as he explained to Gena all the things that might go wrong. I told her that I'd get home as soon as I could. I tried to encourage her; we prayed briefly over the phone and said our good-byes. "I love you, Sweetheart. I'll be with you soon."

Our bags were packed and sitting right by the hotel room door, ready to go. I was too frustrated to sleep, so the guys and I stayed up all night, talking, pacing, praying, and ticking the minutes off the clock.

At five-thirty sharp we were rolling down the runway. The moment our plane landed in California, I bounded down the steps and raced to the hospital, arriving around ten o'clock Pacific Time. Gena was already in the recovery room.

As I stepped inside the room, I saw Gena lying in bed, covered by a crisp white sheet. She looked so pale and fragile. The woman whom I had grown to depend on in all facets of my life now seemed so frail. I leaned over and kissed her gently. "Baby, I'm so sorry I wasn't here for you...." I started to apologize. "I'm never going to leave you again!"

"You're here now," she said. "That's all that matters."

I looked at the woman who loved me so much that she was willing to step into the valley of the shadow of death to give birth to our children. The doctor had said that if we could keep Gena in bed for the next ten weeks or so, he felt sure that the babies would be fine. Gena's commitment to do whatever was necessary for the benefit of her children reminded me of another woman of tremendous faith, my mom. My mom had gone through awful travail trying to bring me into this world. In fact, like Gena and our babies, my mom and I had to struggle against the odds to survive.

Chapter Two

My mother, Wilma Norris, was only eighteen years of age when she gave birth to me, after enduring an exhausting seven days in labor! She went to the hospital on Sunday, March 3, and I was not born until the following Sunday. Several times during the difficult delivery, the doctors feared they were going to lose her or me-or both of us. Finally, in the early hours of March 10, 1940, I weighed in at six pounds, eight ounces. But Mom's concerns were far from over. Something wasn't right. My skin color was all wrong!

My tiny body was a dark shade of bluish purple. My father, Ray Norris, was in the delivery room along with both of my grandmothers, and when he first caught a glimpse of me, he was so unnerved that he fainted right on the spot.

The doctors and nurses weren't too concerned about my dad, but they were extremely concerned about me! They recognized me as a "blue baby," which means that I had not begun breathing immediately after birth, thus causing my skin to turn the deathly color. They had to act fast to save my life, even faster to prevent the lack of oxygen from doing permanent damage to my brain. The doctors hastily placed me on oxygen to jump start my lungs. It worked, and before long, I was gulping air like a pro.

Nevertheless, for the first five days of my life, the doctors weren't sure I was going to make it. They kept me in an isolation unit, similar to a neonatal intensive care unit nowadays, to prevent me from contamination and also to keep a close watch on me. I was too weak to eat normally, so Mom expressed milk for me, and I was fed with an eyedropper. Extremely weak herself, Mom was not permitted to see me during that time. She still has a letter written by my grandmother, dated that week, telling my aunt that "Wilma's baby probably isn't going to live."

But Mom and I surprised everyone! We pulled through, and before long the doctors discharged my mother and me. Mom later told me that from the first moment she saw me, she looked into my face and said, "God has plans for you." It was a message she has reiterated many times throughout my life.

Mom and Dad took me home to the farm where Dad worked, in Ryan, Oklahoma, a small town not far from the Texas border, about a two-hour drive from Dallas. The name on my birth certificate is Carlos Ray Norris. I was named in honor of Reverend Carlos Berry, my family's minister in Ryan. My middle name, Ray, is in honor of my father.

Genetically speaking, I am equal parts Irish and Native American. On the Norris side, my paternal grandfather was Irish, and my paternal grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian. My mother's family name was Scarberry. My maternal grandmother, Agnes, was Irish, while my maternal grandfather was a Cherokee Indian from Kentucky.

Grandpa Norris left Ireland and came to America with his parents in the mid-1800s. He married and had three children, but his wife died from the hardships of frontier life. He hired a sixteen-year-old Indian girl from the Cherokee Indian reservation to be the children's nanny. Before long he decided to marry the nanny, and arranged to buy her from her parents on the reservation. The fact that the young woman was in love with a young man from her own tribe was of no significance to her parents. They sold her to my grandfather without a moment's hesitation.

The young Cherokee woman proved to be a good choice. She bore Grandpa Norris thirteen children, seven of whom lived, including my dad. Nevertheless, their relationship never blossomed into romantic love-perhaps my grandma could not forget her first true love from whom she had been ripped away to marry my grandpa. Years later my mom told me that at Grandpa Norris's funeral, Grandma said, "Good. Now I'm finally rid of him!" Not exactly the mourning of a grief-stricken widow!

My parents were a handsome couple. Dad was about six feet, one inch, well built and strong, with coal black hair and black eyes. In early photos he resembles John Wayne as a young man. Dad was nineteen and Mom sixteen when they married in Marietta, Oklahoma. Mom was a petite young woman, with long, flowing red hair and a pretty face full of freckles.

We soon moved from Ryan to Lawton, Oklahoma, where Dad got a job as a mechanic with the Greyhound Bus Company. It was the first of at least a dozen moves our family made before I reached the age of twelve. Had it not been for Mom's spiritual and practical stability, we'd have established no roots at all. Her love was the glue that kept us together and provided us with a sense of security, no matter where we moved or how often we packed up and moved again.

Continues...


Excerpted from AGAINST ALL ODDS by CHUCK NORRIS Ken Abraham Copyright © 2004 by Carlos Ray Norris. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Chuck Norris

Barnes & Noble.com: Congratulations on the publication of Against All Odds, your memoir! Did you ever think you'd be writing a book about your life?

Chuck Norris: Actually, I did write a book about my life 17 years ago (called Secrets of Inner Strength), but I didn't tell the whole story, and a lot has happened in my life since that time.

B&N.com: While you were growing up, your mother often said, "God has plans for you." How important were those words for the young Carlos Ray Norris to hear?

CN: I never really knew what Mom meant by those words, but God did! And it wasn't until several years ago that I fully understood why God had led me in the direction I have taken in my life. And even though there were times I strayed away from my faith and drifted from God, He never drifted from me.

B&N.com: You almost didn't make it into the world! Do you think your difficult birth made you more able to fight adversity later in life?

CN: I believe the martial arts are what helped me deal with adversity. It raised my self-esteem and instilled the discipline I needed to overcome many obstacles in my life. Again, I believe this was part of God's plan.

B&N.com: Against All Odds documents the many times you overcame the expectations of others to achieve your objectives. Looking back, what leap of faith you took was the most amazing?

CN: When Gena was having difficulties in her pregnancy with our twins, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said we needed to move to Los Angeles from Dallas to be near Dr. DeVore, who is a specialist in high-risk pregnancies. Thank you, God, because Dr. DeVore saved the lives of my wife and babies.

B&N.com: Screen legend Steve McQueen was a big influence in your acting career. What was the best professional advice he gave you?

CN: To speak as little as possible, and to make what you do say mean something. He said to let my costars say all the nonessential dialogue, and when there is something important to say, then you be the one to say it.

B&N.com: You also worked with the great Bruce Lee -- what was he like? Were you as shocked as his many fans when he died so young?

CN: Bruce Lee was one of the most dynamic men I have ever known. In my book, I talk about the incredible odds he overcame to become a superstar. I had lunch with Bruce four days before his death and he looked incredibly fit. I was very shocked and saddened to hear of his death.

B&N.com: You and your wife, Gena, do a lot of very important work with children, via your KICKSTART antidrug program. Has that work now become the focus of your life?

CN: As I said, now I know what Mom meant when she said, "God has plans for you"! It was the KICKSTART foundation! I believe God was preparing me then by giving me the ability to become a world karate champion, then the ability to succeed in the entertainment field so he could later use me to fulfill his plan by helping at-risk kids. To help them believe they can achieve whatever goals they set for themselves, as long as they keep their faith, stay focused on their goals, and be determined to overcome all the obstacles they will face striving toward those goals. To help empower them to be constructive rather than destructive parts of society. I am blessed to have my wife, Gena, working by my side and sharing this vision with me.

B&N.com: Your hit series, Walker, Texas Ranger, had an amazing run on CBS. Any plans for a Walker reunion?

CN: Actually yes, in October [2004], I will be filming a two-hour Walker, Texas Ranger movie for CBS. From there, who knows!

B&N.com: You're a big supporter of both President Bushes -- will you be campaigning for W. in the fall?

CN: Former president Bush is one of the most incredible men I have had the pleasure of knowing. He is my friend and at the top of the list of the men I most admire. Yes, if President Bush wants me to campaign for him, I will!

B&N.com: What's the key message of your memoir?

CN: The insurmountable odds I had to overcome to achieve my goals in life. I am a prime example that nothing is impossible. I hope this book will encourage others who may feel the odds are stacked too high against them to continue to pursue their goals and to never give up.

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