Original Marlboro Man Bob Norris, Who Never Smoked, Dead at 90

Johnny Lopez
November 09, 2019 - 3:00 pm

Robert “Bob” Norris, who portrayed the first Marlboro Man in the iconic cigarette television ads, passed away on November 3rd. He was 90.

The “ruggedly handsome” rancher had been in hospice care near his home in Colorado and suffered from dementia, reported USA Today.

Interestingly, Norris landed the tobacco campaign, which showed him with a cigarette in his mouth for over a decade, but never actually smoked himself.

"He was the first Marlboro Man on television," Norris' son Bobby Norris said. "Phillip Morris decided they needed to get into the television market in the very early 60s. They went out and they got all these good looking, square-jaw models."

But the ad execs didn’t think the models had an authentic enough look and eventually tracked Norris down after seeing him in a photo alongside actor and good friend John Wayne.

"They said, 'let's use Norris, he's already dirty,'" his son added.

For the next 12 years, Norris became known as the masculine face of the nicotine habit.

Despite the fame, Norris “abandoned the campaign when he felt he was setting a poor example for his children,” his obituary said.

Philip Morris ran the Marlboro Man advertising print, TV and billboard campaign from 1954 to 1999. Through the years, many other cowboys and actors took over the gig and it’s been reported that at least five have since died from smoking-related illnesses.

Norris is survived by four children, 13 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to Roundup for Autism or to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which helps families of fallen veterans.

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