An Iconic “Marlboro Man” Passed Away Last Week, Never Smoked

Robert Norris was 90, and didn't smoke a day in his life

Marlboro Man
By Tanner Garrity / November 12, 2019 12:58 pm

Believe it or not, Marlboro’s filtered cigarette was originally marketed towards women, with a campaign that featured the slogan “Mild as May.” In the 1950s, parent company Phillip Morris (now known as Altria) decided to rebrand Marlboro’s cigarette as a habit of frontier men with calloused hands, and began looking for the perfect “Marlboro Man.”

That search brought them to Robert Norris, who passed away last week at the age of 90. Marlboro had already cycled through a few professional models — fellows who didn’t know their way around a ranch — by the time they found Norris, through a photo with his buddy John Wayne. He was the perfect candidate —  a former football player at the University of Kentucky, a rancher by trade (with land in Colorado and Arizona), a thespian, and a lover of animals. Later in life, he would adopt five elephants.

But Norris, fascinatingly, didn’t smoke a day in his life. He was the face of Marlboro for 14 years, until he quit, deciding the gig wasn’t setting a good example for his family. During that time, Marlboro became the highest selling cigarette in the world (that hasn’t changed, even today) and eventually had other Marlboro Men, until tobacco companies were hit with legislation in the 1990s and forced to stop pretending that cigarettes equated a healthy, glorious lifestyle.

If anyone proves the opposite, ironically, it’s Norris. The Marlboro Man himself was still pulling range rides up until two years ago. Head here for more on his passing. His family has listed multiple causes they’re supporting with donations.

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