Steve McQueen Still Flying High

Hollywood Actor Known for Living 'Fast Life' Committed His Life to God Shortly Before His Death in 1980

by James L. Lambert

And when they had received [their wages], they complained against the landowner, saying, "These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day." But he answered one of them and said, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong .... Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you." (Matthew 20: 11-14)

(AgapePress) From 1963 to 1978, Steve McQueen was considered by movie fans and "big screen" insiders as one of the main leading actors in Hollywood. The rugged-faced actor's roles defined "cool," and his persona was idolized by men and women alike. But he wasn't so blinded by Hollywood's glitter that he didn't realize his need for God just before his death.

Terrance Steven McQueen was born in Beech Grove, Indiana, in March 1930. At a very young age, the future actor was abandoned by both parents -- and until the age of 12, was raised by an uncle. His natural mother then stepped in and sent him to Boys Republic (, a reform school based in Chino, California. McQueen credited Boys Republic for helping him change the direction of his life, and in his later years he gave a very large endowment to the school.

After a stop in the military, McQueen decided to give acting a try. While attending the Actors' Studio in New York City, McQueen got his first break in 1956 when he won a role in the film Somebody Up there Likes Me. It was in New York that he met his first wife, dancer Neile Adams. Soon thereafter Steve landed the lead role in the made-for-TV western series Wanted: Dead or Alive.

McQueen went on to take part in many big-screen successes of the day, including The Great Escape, Bullitt, The Towering Inferno, The Magnificent 7, Papillon, Le Mans, The Sand Pebbles (for which he received an Oscar nomination), The Getaway, and The Thomas Crown Affair. McQueen co-starred with his second wife, Ali MacGraw, in the action movie The Getaway.

In 1980, two major events occurred in the actor's life: he married his third wife, Barbara Minty -- and he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer that is associated with exposure to asbestos. Complications associated with that disease led to his death on November 7, 1980.

It is generally acknowledged that Barbara, along with McQueen's flying instructor, Sammy Mason, introduced the actor to Christianity. But according to the media relations department of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (, evangelist Dr. Billy Graham visited McQueen in his home just prior to his death. Contacted by AgapePress earlier this month, the department acknowledges McQueen's conversion to Christianity.

Incidentally, Dr. Graham wrote the preface to the book Steve McQueen, the Final Chapter by Grady Ragsdale. The book, published in 1983, received little media attention at the time. It is currently out of print, but copies can still be found over the Internet.

Pastor Chuck Butler is pastor of Calvary Chapel in San Marcos, California, and lead singer for the musical groups "Parable" and "The Chuck Butler Band." He also acts as director of spiritual care for Scripps Hospital in nearby Encinitas.

Butler says he understands the spiritual plight of those who are infirm, like McQueen was in 1980. Yet the California pastor sees McQueen's eleventh-hour conversion to Christianity as proof that God can reach out to anyone, regardless of their celebrity.

James L. Lambert, who resides in San Diego, California, is a frequent contributor to AgapePress. He is the host of Night Lights, a weekly conservative talk cable television show in San Diego; the author of Porn in America (Huntington House); and a real estate loan sales agent. He can be reached via his website: (

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