July 21, 1947
San Antonio, Texas, United States
May 30, 2017
Houston, Texas, United States
While many may recognize Wendell Burton's face from his performances in movies like "The Sterile Cuckoo" (1969) and "Heat" (1986), the actor-turned exec actually enjoyed a longer career behind the scenes than he did in front of the camera. Born in San Antonio, Texas in 1947, Burton's first acting role came when he was cast as the lead in a San Francisco production of "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown." It was during a performance of the show that director Alan J. Pakula noticed him and decided to cast the inexperienced actor opposite Liza Minnelli in his film "The Sterile Cuckoo." It was quite an auspicious screen debut, and Burton followed it with a role in the touring production of "Butterflies are Free." He would return to the screen with roles in the mini-series "East of Eden" (ABC, 1981) and the Burt Reynolds actioner "Heat," but a lack of interesting roles began to draw Burton away from acting and toward the marketing side of the entertainment industry. He eventually became the West Coast Director of Sales for the Family Channel. Burton also followed his Christian faith with increasing devotion, becoming an ordained minister and Senior Director of the Champions Network, which helped suggest church services for various network affiliates to broadcast. Burton even published a book about his spiritual growth, Godsmacked, A Souljourner's Guide to the Heart of God, in 2016. Burton died in 2017. He was 69 years old.