Outspoken Biker, Bar Owner Dies

Mike Norman, a biker and the owner of Mulligan's, was famous for his controversial marquee messages. What is less well-known is that Norman hosted charity events to help the needy.

By Poncho Wilson

Mike Norman of Marietta mixed a stiff drink, and he didn’t mince words. As owner of on Roswell Street, Norman’s gruff, imposing exterior coupled with an affinity for motorcycles, biker culture and his longtime ties to Marietta’s American Legion Horace Orr Post 29 made him a natural fit for the scene.

“Mike spoke what other people whispered,” said longtime friend Jeff “Cowboy” Garland of Marietta, whose nickname derived from Norman’s observations that when Garland wasn’t riding into Mulligan’s on his 2001 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide, he was instead wearing his trademark cowboy hat.

Mike Norman, 66, of Marietta, formerly of Sutallee and a Clinton, TN, native, died Friday of complications from lung cancer. A funeral service will be held Monday at on Canton Highway in Northeast Cobb at 2 p.m.

Behind Norman’s shaved pate and gray goatee that hung no less than 6 inches below his chin was an unwavering impetus to help others in need.

Norman’s bar is one of a very few in greater Marietta that regularly hosts charity motorcycle rides to raise money for the sick and needy and underprivileged children.

On any given Sunday a phalanx of motorcycles and riders can be seen filling Mulligan’s parking lot and spilling out onto the adjacent U-Haul property before they thunder down Roswell Road eastbound in tandem toward Cobb Parkway.

Norman’s eldest daughter, Kelleye Norman Greene of Hickory Flat, recalled her father as deeply loyal and endlessly attentive to both her and her younger sister, Brandi Nabors of Acworth. Norman and his wife, Dee, raised them in the expansive countryside of Sutallee in northwest Georgia.

Norman’s passion for helping others was equaled only in fervor to the sociopolitical opinions he unapologetically and often blatantly espoused in black plastic channel letters on the bar’s street side marquee that stands vigil over tidy rows of cornstalks. 

Norman routinely bucked the system in true biker fashion with colorful and often controversial sign posts about illegal immigration and political demagoguery in an area that’s seen a large influx of Hispanic-owned businesses and residents.

Ironically, the bar itself was at one time a Taco Bell restaurant.

But illegal immigration and undocumented workers, no matter if they were from Mexico or Munich, were topics Norman regularly focused his highly visible and sometimes volatile public opinions upon.

It was Norman’s consensus that undocumented workers often compete for and beat out native citizens for dwindling blue collar jobs that most of Mulligan's clientele hold and depend upon to make a living, said Norman’s daughter Kelleye Norman Greene.  

And day laborers or rogue contractors who hire them often work for a fraction of what traditional tax-declaring workers charge because the miscreants take cash under the table and then don't report the income, she added.

So the sign out front of Mulligan’s has become a sounding board of sorts for working class Americans—more specifically those in Norman’s circle—who’ve grown steadily frustrated with a government that seems more concerned about defending lawsuits from human rights organizations than standing up for the rights of its own citizens, Greene said.

“A lot of people who don’t know or didn’t know my dad only saw the superficial messages in that sign,” Greene said. “He was an amazing man, and he’d give anything to anyone who asked. And he was far from racist or bigoted. He stood for hard work and what’s right is right. And he let people know about it.”

Norman in mid-2008 drew national media attention and outrage from civil rights groups, prompting picket-line-style demonstrations in front of his bar, when he offered T-shirts depicting the Curious George cartoon monkey character with the slogan "Obama In '08" emblazoned across the chest.

But no message resonated more with Mulligan’s patrons than the sign’s boilerplate “Border Patrol Eats Free.” Norman was often seen wearing a replica Border Patrol green baseball cap if for nothing else than to make a statement.

“Mike was a giver not a taker,” said longtime friend Debbie Benedit of Waleska. “He touched the hearts, souls and minds of many—an incredible human being who had a heart of gold—and I am honored to have been his friend.”

“And he had the most beautiful blue eyes that could look right through you. They were beautiful, and they told his story,” said Norman’s youngest daughter, Brandi Nabors.

“Mike was always the first one to step up and help someone,” said longtime Mulligan’s patron Joy Ashby of Smyrna, whose ridden in countless numbers of Norman’s charity rides on her 2001 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy.

“But now it’s like Mike once said, ‘Bright camp fires don’t last long enough.’ ”

Michael Jacobs October 04, 2011 at 08:59 PM
Yes, I've deleted his comments twice. We want to allow the discussion to be as free and open as possible, but his comments crossed the line. While the comments here have flirted with problems with language, the discussion has generally avoided degenerating into an exchange of personal insults, for which I am grateful.
Davis McCollum October 04, 2011 at 09:00 PM
Only when responding to people with comments like yours Sir. I AM from here, Roosevelt Cir. to be exact... look it up. Just trying to help educate ya. and you grew up where..?
Davis McCollum October 04, 2011 at 09:10 PM
I had a good answer for him... but you are right. Best not posted. Thanks.
Incisal edge October 04, 2011 at 09:34 PM
i found myself in mulligans one night when i first moved ti Ga. It was me (single white female) Mike and 2 or 3 other guys. They stared on the mexican bashing and i spoke up with a very different opinion. The conversation escalated until Mike said "if thats how you feel why did you come in here?" I replied "that just because we didn't agree didn't make either of us bad people or even meant we couldn't be friends. And isn't that what this country is built on? The freedom to chose? Not to mention i ride a Harley" He agreed, shook my hand and said I was welcome anytime. I didn't spend much time at mulligans because the point of view that Mike had was largely shared by his customers and that was just to hard for me to digest on a regular basis. And I don't think many of his customers would have made me feel welcome if I continued to voice my opinions! I do believe those opinions are fueled by hate. BUT, i do know Mike's reputation as a friend. And he was loved and respected by everyone I have ever heard speak his name. Regardless of his personal politics. R.I.P. Mike.
Davis McCollum October 04, 2011 at 09:41 PM
Ditto that... and that's the man i knew. Trust me, he didn't like my ass that much either.
Davis McCollum October 04, 2011 at 09:42 PM
Glad I didn't post my response.
Greg from Marietta October 05, 2011 at 12:18 AM
Thank you for your insightful comments, Incisal edge. The more I hear from people who knew Mike Norman, the more clear it becomes that he was a complicated man, capable of both reasonable acceptance and radical intolerance. I'm glad that he showed you that he was capable of accepting a view that differed from his own. I can't help but wonder, though. If the person sitting in his bar disagreeing with him had not been a single, white female, but rather had been a Hispanic or Muslim male, would his response have been the same?
Kim October 05, 2011 at 12:51 AM
I guess the saying "Bad publicity is better than no publicity" still holds true. Those of you on here kickin up sand over a sign out side of a business...sure wish thats all I had to worry about. But guess what, the signs got your attention and your still talking about them, guess they served their purpose. And if you think the signs will stop just because Mike is gone, you are sadly mistaken!
dicklien October 05, 2011 at 03:58 AM
this man posted a sign calling people who follow my religion stupid. thanks for making sure there is more room in heaven!! have fun in the lake of fire.
Incisal edge October 05, 2011 at 04:39 AM
@ Greg, A muslin or a Hispanic would never be so foolish as to walk into a biker bar in Georgia! And as brave as I may have felt that night I didn't volunteer that I was a Jew!!!
BGWATT October 05, 2011 at 11:44 AM
In reply to the "ignorant" people that continue to bash the name of a man that they obviously did not know personally is in fact proof that there is still no cure for stupidity. It is people like "you" that cause the very issues you complain about all this man did was use his right to freedom of speech, it is not like he was asking for the Government to give "whitey" a month to celebrate, or stand in the street in protest for legal rights for "illegal" immigrants, etc, etc. THIS IS AMERICA! It is a beautiful country where we can go and do as we please for the most part, and with that liberty gives us the right to say what we want to ANYWHERE, on the street...a t-shirt...a concrete overpass, and YES even a sign that was paid for from money that was hard earned from a US citizen, role model father and grandfather, a patriot and a God fearing man. I leave "you" ignorant people bashing a man I knew with this.....Do us all a favor, take your bottom lip.....pull it over your head....and SWALLOW REAL WELL, that should allow you to see what you are made of on the inside, not what you try and make others see you as....Mike wore his heart on his sleeve..R.I.P. brother...WE got your back on this one!
hondagirl October 05, 2011 at 12:23 PM
WOW! I can't believe what I have been reading! Bashing a man that can no longer defend his beliefs and opinions....why didn't y'all have the balls to confront him when he was alive? There's a word for it and I will not lower myself to your level! Y'all are pityful! Coming from an ethnic background and owning a business that employes latin and hispanic workers(legal i might add), I didn't always agree with what Mike had to say..but that was HIS RIGHT! It just shows how ignorant you are! Did you even know that 2 of his longtime employees are african/american, being polictically correct of course,and at the funeral on Monday, they were right there with Mike's family? Of course not..cause you see only what you want to see. The man would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it, but he was also a man that didn't sugar coat life. He was an individual, something not too many of us are anymore! Listen... just like a T.V. or radio..you don't like what you see or hear...turn it off or change the channel..you don't like what is on the sign..DON"T READ IT! But don't you dare judge a man that you didn't even know! I am proud and honored to have been his friend....Godspeed Mike!
Greg from Marietta October 05, 2011 at 12:55 PM
Come on folks... you keep wanting to defend his First Amendment rights, but that is not what this debate is about. In two previous posts, I have clearly defended his right to say whatever he wanted to on his sign. The question at hand, which so many of you are ignoring, is whether or not the use of a word like "wetback" is a hateful act or not? Still waiting for someone... anyone... to stand up and say that you agree with Mike Norman's belief that it is acceptable to call Hispanics "wetbacks," or admit that it was wrong and hateful of Mr. Norman to use that term. Mr. McCollum, in his above post from 1:02pm on Tuesday, has publicly owned up to his belief that the use of terms like "wetback" and "nigger" are acceptable. But so far, he is the only one brave enough to take that stand and state his beliefs for all to see. I may find it reprehensible, but I fully support his right to say it, just as I support Mike Norman's right to use his sign to say whatever he wanted. Is there anyone else who is willing to answer my challenge from yesterday? Again, I challenge all those who cared for Mike Norman to either say that you agree with Mike's belief that it is acceptable to call Hispanics "wetbacks," or admit that it was wrong and hateful of Mr. Norman to use that term. Anyone?
Patti October 05, 2011 at 01:21 PM
I think it's inappropriate and quite tacky to voice your negative views about this man on his obituary page. Shame on you! Rest in peace, Mr. Norman.
Greg from Marietta October 05, 2011 at 01:38 PM
Marietta, Georgia. 34 years now. My family and I live about a half-mile off of Marietta Square, on Whitlock Avenue. Not that that has a thing to do with whether or not calling Mexicans "wetbacks" or blacks "niggers" is hateful or not.
Davis McCollum October 05, 2011 at 02:31 PM
""Mr. McCollum has publicly owned up to his belief that the use of terms like "wetback" and "nigger" are acceptable...""" Mr. McCollum did not infer or own up to anything (not that I may not)... He simply defined the terms that YOU brought up for you, as you seemed not know what they meant. Whether they are "acceptable" is not for me to define... but for each individual. I have another one... and my last one... (posted at 10:14 AM on Wednesday, October 5, 2011)... Ignorant (a state of being uninformed. (lack of knowledge)[1]...) Ignoring the past, not being able to handle history and apply it in today environs, face what comes with it, right or wrong. Good luck educating that poor daughter that YOU mentioned (at 12:21pm on Tuesday, October 4, 2011) with the a fore said ignorance and blindly leading that poor little girl down the same limited path of learned ability to engage the past and apply to the present without discretion to whom you or we may be affecting. ... and now off to the golf course for a beautiful day and round of 18 holes in Mikes honor... followed by a nice cold beverage (tea as we know it in the South) at Mulligan's... Rest in Peace my friend Mike... your impact is still being felt even 72 hours after we buried you.... and YOU LOVE IT..! CIAO (that means good bye for the Ignorant).
Jason P. Verhine October 05, 2011 at 02:49 PM
R.I.P. All Americans should be proud enough to speak freely, as this man did! It's a sad disgrace that "freedom of speech" is only for those speaking out against what is considered"racist", or "hate". Why is my belief considered hate, yet those against me are considered minority, & victim. Example: "reverse discrimination"..... What? Regardless of who is doing it, it's still racism. I'm sick of hearing that any one not white is a victim. We, "the white,American,hederosexual, Christian,male" are minority in this country, & it's time our voice for heritage it's heard again!
Kim October 05, 2011 at 03:28 PM
I have to say, I'm sure my Uncle Mike (wherever he is Greg from Marietta) is laughing his ass off right now over all these crazy posts, I know I am! Though Mulligan's may have been the most politically INCORRECT pub in the area(and since its safe to say alot of you have never been there) I will tell you this, the food is great, the beers is cold, and the atmosphere is amazing! To ALL the people that frequent Mulligan's I personally want to Thank each and everyone one of you for your love and support of my Uncle and our family during this past year. To the rest of you, go find something else to do!
Joe Bozeman October 05, 2011 at 04:00 PM
In my opinion, this discussion has gone off the deep end. I was never in the place and never gave it much thought. However, I will say this. If Mulligans had been on Roswell Road during the Leo Frank lynching, I believe the lynch mob would have enjoyed celebrating at this establishment on their way back to Marietta from Freys Gin Road. Joe Bozeman
Ron October 05, 2011 at 09:41 PM
Mike used the sign to stir up controversay and to drum up business. Everybody who really knew Mike would go to battle with him at any time.
Jeff Garland October 05, 2011 at 10:03 PM
@ Greg (as well as any other passerby who never had the nerve to "Stop profiling... Come in and see for yourself!" ~ another Mike Normanism put on the marquee in front of Mulligan's), "The reason a 'dog' has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue." ~ Anonymous. Mike Norman was revered by many different ethnicities (to include African Americans, Mexicans, Caucasians, and just plain Biker Trash). Let it be known that even the funeral home employees had not seen THAT many attendees in a great many years! I don't have the time, nor the patience to banter back and forth with you about ethnic slurs you obviously use because you are either closed minded, or are just plain ignorant about the actual meaning of the "words" - and that is all they are is "words" to the educated, proud, hard working, LEGAL Americans Mike Norman went to his grave protecting and speaking out loud what other people whisper. That man had more patriotism and a love for this country than those who criticize him can ever imagine! I don’t mean to wish you any ill will when the time comes for you to end your journey, but most of us can only hope to have one-tenth of the amount of people that showed up to pay respect. He touched a great many lives. To actually KNOW him was an honor! Since you never had the opportunity to meet the man (other than a cowardly phone call from time to time), I would only suggest you hold your “tongue” and try “wagging your tail” a little more often!
Greg from Marietta October 05, 2011 at 11:51 PM
So, let's see... Davis has now backtracked and erased his previous "definitions." So that leaves only BGWatt as being brave enough to proclaim his beliefs publicly. There's been a lot of words written here by people who want to defend Mr. Norman, but when it comes to actually taking a stand and answering my question, the silence is deafening. So, I'll issue my challenge a third time: I challenge all those who cared for Mike Norman to either: 1. Say that you agree with Mike's belief that it is acceptable to call Hispanics "wetbacks," or 2. Admit that it was wrong of Mr. Norman to use that term. It's a pretty simple question folks, but one that most of you have chosen to avoid answering so far.
Greg from Marietta October 06, 2011 at 01:12 AM
Forget it. Don't bother answering. I think we all can see that we won't reach an agreement here, so I'll just do what you say your friend Mike would have done, and that is agree that we have different opinions, and that we each have a right to those opinions. To all those who considered Mike Norman a friend, I offer my sincere condolences. We are all imperfect beings, and we can only hope that God will forgive us for our trespasses and take us into His kingdom. This is my wish for your friend Mike, and for all of us.
Larry D. Poole October 06, 2011 at 11:46 PM
Mike, You will truly be missed! I always enjoy going to Mulligan's when I am in Marietta. I go to Marietta for a monthly meeting and I always take Mike a pan of crackling cornbread as he loves it. When I come to Marietta now I will continue to take a pan of crackling coenbread for the waitresses and patrons to enjoy. That will be my humble tribute to one of the best men that I've ever known! As far as Mike's marquis postings are concerned: Hillary and Barack have not taken away the 1st Amendment............(yet!) So, anyone that doesn't like Mike's marquis postings, you need to "get a grip!"
Barbara Davis October 07, 2011 at 01:52 AM
Mike was a good guy, and one of the most decent men that I have ever met. I admired him greatly. Mike was great to share his stories, and he lived life to the fullest. The news media was quick to criticize him, but I never saw one word about his passing, or the good that he had done for the community that he loved so much. Only the Marietta Patch did that. It is too bad that the national media did not have the decency to tell about the good that he accomplished, instead of besmirching his name. They tried to make a good man into a villian, and they did not succeed. Mike joked about it. Deep inside, he knew that he was a saavy businessman. Most of all, he knew that he was doing his best for the community. He did not let the world know about his service to the community and the charities that he sponsored. He was quiet about it. He received world-wide attention, recognition, and more business thanks to CNN, CBS, and other news media. People would travel for miles just to see what was posted on the marquee! And after making the trip, you just had to see what was inside. The news media were his allies, and they provided advertising that was absolutely priceless. No amount of money could have paid for that kind of advertising, recognition, and attention. Mike was one of a kind, and no one else could have done it better. I will always admire and respect him. He lost his battle to cancer, but he will always be a winner!! God Bless You, Mike.
mary kirkendoll October 08, 2011 at 12:59 AM
Rest in Peace, Mike Norman. You will be missed. I want to personally thank Mike's family & all the staff at Mulligans for always opening their door to the Georgia Minutemen Civil Defense Corp, allowing us to have our meetings & giving us great support (& best chili & brews)- while we were educating fellow Americans & LEGAL immigrants of the danger to our countries future that open borders & unchecked immigration would have. We desperately need Americans that are willing to speak the truth & Mike Norman 'fit the bill'! I hope his daughters will be able to carry on w/ his business & his NECESSARY marquees! Thanks & patriotic love!
Hunter Weatherford October 09, 2011 at 05:16 PM
I see lots of posts commending Mr. Norman for the charitable work he did in his community. He's also revered as a savvy business man who took advantage of the firestorms he would often start with his incendiary statements and "necessary" marquees. Here's a thought: I would argue Bin Laden's followers had the same views of him. I'm sure he did great things in his community for his people too. I'm sure he was equally regarded as a savvy business man, after all he was friends with the Bush family who often had him at the white house. And he made millions taking our tax payer dollars before he became our enemy. As for LEGAL immigrants, judging from your last name, Mrs. Kirkendoll I'd dare say you aren't Native American. In fact, your family migrated here from Scotland during the 1920's as did other Europeans like Italians, Irish, Germans and others. Your grandparents came over on a boat, dirt poor in search of better opportunities for your family too. Ask yourself, were they LEGAL? No. But now that you're here, you're settled and you've staked your claim you (in general) are so quick to throw everyone else, non-whites, back. How hypocritical. And I assume you're a Christian, but how does a Christian justify the heartless, hate laced messages of the man you defend? I agree this probably isn't the most ideal place for the debate but Mr. Norman made his bed...now he's lying in it.
sosad October 13, 2011 at 06:15 PM
whos pickled now???lol . seriously .... I read all of the comments from family and friends and truly tried to sympathize with the loss but I just cant wrap my mind around someone who had a platform to be positive and used it to spread hatred. It has definately opened my eyes to the fact that racism is alive and well in our day and age. You rednecks may get some sort of satisfaction from that but whos laughing now. You speak of all the good work he did to help the needy and underpriveleged children but what exactly does that mean? what children? certain ones ? Its just sad that the ignorance is supported with comments like"he has two long time employees who happen to be african american" . REALLY ?? REALLY? man they should have had a roast instead of a funeral. Ironically today a friend sent me a picture of this place and I googled it and found out about this place. ITS SOOO IRONIC! anyways he is with his maker now and no border exists there except the one between heaven and hell
Davis McCollum October 13, 2011 at 07:10 PM
You actually read... signed up... created a login... for that..? So sad.
Bore Head September 23, 2012 at 11:39 PM
I just saw this. I was working in Marietta for a short time, and found myself at Mulligans just about everynight after work over a two month period. The guys I worked with and myself are Yankees. We were welcomed by all, and Mike made sure we had anything we could possibly want, including a place full of the best people you could keep company with, of all persuations, and ethnicitys. I'm sad to read of Mikes passing, and have wondered many times about the man, the place and the people. This driller had a ball. Thank you, Mike, wherever you are! BH


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