What Happened to Bart Millard’s Dad? How Did He Die?

With ‘I Can Only Imagine’ (2018) centering around the life of Christian Rock musician and MercyMe frontman Bart Millard, we honestly get a film that goes much beyond just the surface level. That’s because it explores not only his passion for music and rise to fame but also his past as a victim of abuse at the hands of his father as well as the mistakes he himself made along the way. Yet for now, if you simply wish to learn more about his dad, Arthur Wesley Millard Jr. — with a particular focus on his background, his actions, and his ultimate fate — we’ve got the details for you.

Who Was Arthur Wesley Millard Jr.?

Born on November 26, 1942, in wondrous Greenville, Texas, to Mary Leona Tyler and Sergeant Arthur Wesley Millard as the elder of two boys, Bart reportedly had a great head on his shoulders. He was actually smart, charming, and athletic, just for each aspect to help him evolve into a local football hero — he was such a beloved yet massive All-American that he was even dubbed a teddy bear. But alas, everything soon turned upside down owing to a severe playing knee wound, followed by a head injury he got upon getting hit by a truck while serving as a construction site traffic official.

Image Credit: Millard Family/The Tennessean

Arthur Jr. was fortunate enough not to suffer any broken bones or internal bleeding, yet he did end up in a coma for 8 weeks due to the accident’s impact — then, once he woke, he was a changed man. “Everybody who knew my dad said that he was the biggest teddy bear,” Bart once revealed. “But when he woke up, he had the foulest mouth and the worst temper. It took 12 people to hold him down.” According to reports, he subsequently became mentally, verbally, as well as psychologically abusive toward his wife too, driving her away to such an extent she filed for divorce around the mid-1970s.

The truth is Bart and his elder brother Stephen initially stayed with Adele, but once she decided to relocate to San Antonio to spend better quality time with her third husband, they returned to Arthur. That’s when the physical assaults began — it started with mere spanks, yet it quickly turned to full-fledged abuse, including beatings/whippings with belts and wooden paddles, amongst much more. “If he got embarrassed or cut off in traffic or whatever, he would take a swing at me,” his younger son candidly stated back in 2018. “I was like his punching bag” since it happened at least twice a week.

Image Credit: Millard Family/The Tennessean

It hence comes as no surprise Bart was terrified of his father, once going as far as to forge his signature on an official school document announcing the teenager had made it to the honor roll. Though little did he know this simple matter would lead Arthur to grow so furious he’d use a razor strap to whip his boy until his back was black and blue — this is the matter referenced in the film. What’s not revealed is that upon realizing what he’d done, the ex-athlete sent his sons to live with their mother in fear he could do something worse, just for them to return on their own accord within a year.

How Did Arthur Wesley Millard Jr. Die?

It was at the age of 44, around the mid-1980s, that Arthur was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer — it was during Bart’s freshman year in high school, and he was just starting to find himself. Therefore, with brother Stephen in an out of town college, the latter alone had a front seat as religion transformed his dad from a monster to a man, leading them to grow closer and closer gradually.

Image Credit: Millard Family/The Tennessean

In fact, he acted like a nurse to Arthur as he went through his treatments, changing the trajectory of his life too by sparking an interest in ministry. But alas, the 48-year-old couldn’t do it anymore and succumbed to his ailment on November 11, 1991, after making sure money from his life insurance would go directly to Bart on a monthly basis to support his singing dreams.

Read More: Is Shannon Street Based on Bart Millard’s Real Girlfriend? Are They Still Together?