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Robert Norris, 'Marlboro Man' Who Didn't Smoke, Dies

Rancher quit the job to set an example for his children
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2019 11:40 AM CST
Robert Norris played a smoking cowboy for years in commercials and print ads.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

(Newser) – Robert Norris, who posed as the "Marlboro Man" in ads and commercials for years despite never having smoked, has died. He was 90. Norris died in hospice care in Colorado Springs, his hometown, surrounded by family, People reports. He was one of the first Marlboro Men, portraying a fictional cowboy who always had a cigarette in his hand or mouth for about 14 years, through the 1960s. The rancher part of his character was authentic, but the smoker part wasn't. After the health risks of tobacco were proven, Norris told his children he didn't want them to smoke. "One of us finally asked, 'If you don’t want us smoking, why are you doing cigarette commercials?’" his son said, per Yahoo. "He called up Phillip Norris and quit that day." Two other men who played the character died of lung cancer, per NPR.

His son said Norris got the job after being spotted in a newspaper photo with John Wayne, a friend. According to another version, Norris' T-Cross ranch was to be the setting for commercials. When production was about to start, the professional model was replaced with Norris because of his authenticity and the fact that he was already dirty. He later moved into philanthropy, raising money to fight autism and welcoming disabled children to his ranch for rides. In retirement, Norris watched his four chidlren, 13 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren work the ranch. He took his last ride on the range in 2017, his family said. (Read more Marlboro stories.)

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