Kenneth Howard Norton, Sr. was born to John and Ruth Norton on August 9, 1943, and was raised in Jacksonville, Illinois.
Kenneth was an outstanding athlete and graduated from Jacksonville High School. Upon graduating, Kenneth earned several scholarships: football, basketball, and track. He accepted a football scholarship at Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State University), where he studied elementary education.
During his sophomore year he joined the United States Marine Corps. It was there that he started his career in boxing. As a Marine, he compiled an amateur record of 24-2 and won the All-Marine Heavyweight Championship three times. Ken won the U.S. trials for the 1967 Pan American Games and began his professional boxing career after his release from duty in 1967.
Ken, known for his distinctive cross-armed defense, was nicknamed the “Black Hercules”. In 1973 Ken broke Muhammad Ali’s jaw and gained his second nickname as “The Jawbreaker.” He finished his career with a boxing record of 42-7-1 and 33 knockouts. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992 and ranked 22nd among the 50 greatest heavyweights of all time.
Ken appeared in various films and television series. He also worked as a television and radio sports commentator and was a member of the Sports Illustrated Speakers Bureau. His greatest achievement was being twice-named "Father of the Year" in 1977, by both The Los Angeles Sentinel and The Los Angeles Times.
Ken was preceded in death by his parents John and Ruth Norton.
Left to cherish his memory are his wife Rose Conant-Norton (married 2012-2013), and her children Fabian and Chelsea.
Ken leaves behind his loving and dedicated children: Keith, Kenneth Jr. and his wife, Angela, Brandon, Kenisha, and Kene Jon. His adoring grandchildren: Brittney, Sabrina, Kenneth III, Michael, Kameron, Nicholas, Kayliana, Havana, and Kene Jon II; and his former wives Jeannette Henderson (married 1966 – 1968), and Jacqueline Norton (married 1977 – 2000).
He also leaves behind his beloved Uncle Abe Brown, sister Sandy Ver Linden, and a host of family and friends.
Funeral services will be held Friday September 27th, 2013, at 11 a.m. at Buchanan & Cody Funeral Home in Jacksonville, Illinois. Friends may visit the funeral home after 1 p.m. Thursday, September 26th, 2013, where members of the family will meet friends from 4-7 p.m. Graveside committal services will be held 1 p.m. Monday, October 7, 2013, at Jacksonville East Cemetery. Memorials are suggested to “Pathway Services”, http://pathwayservices.org. Condolences may be left at www.buchanancody.com