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Lee Majors: An Iconic Career Retrospective


Lee Majors is a name that resonates with fans of classic television and pop culture. Best known for his roles in iconic series like “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Fall Guy,” Majors became a household name during the 1970s and ’80s. His chiseled features and effortless charisma made him an instant hit among audiences, cementing his place as one of TV’s most beloved action stars.

Lee Majors

Childhood and Education

Lee Majors was born on April 23, 1939, in Wyandotte, Michigan. Tragically, he lost both his parents at an early age which resulted in him being raised by relatives in Middlesboro, Kentucky. His childhood was marked by a keen interest in sports and activities that would later influence his on-screen persona as a rugged action star. Majors attended Middlesboro High School where he excelled in football earning himself a scholarship to Indiana University. He eventually transferred to Eastern Kentucky University where he continued to pursue his athletic interests while also developing a growing fascination with acting.

During college Lee’s athletic prowess was undeniable; however, it’s worth noting that an injury led him to reconsider his future prospects. This pivotal moment steered him toward the arts—a decision that set the stage for his eventual Hollywood fame.

  • Born: April 23, 1939
  • Birthplace: Wyandotte, Michigan
  • Raised: Middlesboro, Kentucky
  • High School: Middlesboro High School
  • Universities: Indiana University & Eastern Kentucky University

Early Acting Roles

After college I turned my attention towards acting and moved to Los Angeles. The city of dreams welcomed me with open arms and before long I had my first gig—an uncredited role in the film ‘Strait-Jacket’. Though small this role marked the beginning of what would be a prolific career.

My break came when I landed a recurring role on ABC’s western series “The Big Valley” playing Heath Barkley opposite Barbara Stanwyck from 1965 to 1969. This opportunity not only honed my acting skills but also exposed me to millions of viewers each week—catapulting me into television stardom.

Bullet-pointed list of early notable roles:

  • Strait-Jacket (1964): Uncredited role
  • Gunsmoke (1965): Various characters
  • The Big Valley (1965–1969): Heath Barkley

I often reflect on those initial parts because they prepared me for one of my most iconic roles as Colonel Steve Austin in “The Six Million Dollar Man”. It wasn’t just another job; it became part of TV history and established me as a household name across America.

In summary:

Year Role Production
1964 Uncredited Strait-Jacket
1965 Various characters Gunsmoke
1965 Heath Barkley The Big Valley

These stepping stones were critical for building up my reputation within the industry leading up to bigger projects like “Owen Marshall Counselor at Law” where I continued showcasing my versatility as an actor through various challenging roles.


The Six Million Dollar Man

Lee Majors’ Role as Steve Austin

Lee Majors became a household name in the 1970s thanks to his iconic role as Steve Austin on “The Six Million Dollar Man.” Portraying a former astronaut with bionic implants, he captured the imagination of viewers with superhuman strength, speed, and vision. Majors’ character was the epitome of cool, calm, and collected under pressure. His performance helped cement the show’s place in pop culture history.

  • Relatable hero for many fans
  • Mastered both action sequences and dramatic scenes
  • Became a positive representation of technology enhancing human capabilities

Majors’ portrayal wasn’t just about showcasing bionics; it was about highlighting human resilience. After all, Steve Austin was an injured test pilot who got a second chance at life due to advanced technology.

Impact and Popularity of the Show

“The Six Million Dollar Man” not only launched Lee Majors into stardom but also had a significant impact on popular culture and the science fiction genre. Its catchphrase “We can rebuild him; we have the technology,” became synonymous with innovation and progress.

  • Ratings: Consistently high during its airing from 1973 to 1978
  • Merchandise: Action figures, comic books, and other memorabilia that are still collectibles today

The series broke new ground in special effects for television at that time. Slow-motion sequences were used to depict Steve Austin’s bionic abilities which became one of its signature elements. The show also sparked conversations about the possibilities of human enhancement through technology.

Season Average Viewership (in millions)
One 11.5
Two 13.6
Three 14.2
Four Not readily available
Five Not readily available

Its success led to spin-offs like “The Bionic Woman,” further proof of its enduring legacy. Fans loved seeing characters overcome challenges using their wits and newfound abilities—a theme that resonates even today.