Ralph Waite, Star of ‘The Waltons,’ Dies at 85

Ralph Waite dead Waltons

Ralph Waite, a hard-working actor best known for his role as the father on CBS’ hit drama “The Waltons” during the 1970s but more recently seen in recurring roles on “NCIS,” “Bones” and “Days of Our Lives,” died Thursday in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 85.

Waite was nominated for two Emmys, one for his role as John Walton Sr. on “The Waltons” in 1978 and another for his role in the miniseries “Roots” the previous year.

The actor appeared on “The Waltons” during its entire run from 1972-81 as well as in a number of “Waltons” telepics that followed. He also directed 16 episodes of the series.

Waite also appeared in a number of feature films, including classics “Cool Hand Luke” in 1967 and “Five Easy Pieces” in 1970, as well as several in the early 1970s including  “Chato’s Land,” “The Magnificent Seven Ride!” and “The Stone Killer” before settling in with “The Waltons.” More recently he appeared in Kevin Costner-Whitney Houston vehicle “The Bodyguard” in 1992, Sylvester Stallone vehicle “Cliffhanger” in 1993, “Sioux City” in 1994 and John Sayles’ “Sunshine State” in 2002 and “Silver City” in 2004.

The actor also starred in the 1980 independent feature “On the Nickel,” about skid-row life in Los Angeles, which he also wrote and produced.

His long history in television began in 1954, when he hosted a show called “Look Up and Live” on CBS.

Waite had a recurring role on ABC’s “Murder One” in 1996 and on HBO series “Carnivale” as the Reverend Norman Balthus from 2003-05. More recently he recurred on “NCIS” as Jackson Gibbs, father to Mark Harmon’s character; on “Bones” as Hank Booth; and on NBC daytime soap “Days of Our Lives.”

“Bones” executive producers Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan said,  “All of us at ‘Bones’ mourn the loss of Ralph Waite. We loved having him on set, and in many ways his character was the moral center of our show as Booth’s (David Boreanaz) plainspoken, loving, war hero grandfather. The entire ‘Bones’ family sends condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Born in White Plains, N.Y., Waite graduated from Bucknell University and essayed various occupations, including social worker, religious editor for Harper & Row, and, after three years at the Yale School of Divinity, Presbyterian minister. He finally began to study acting at age 30, making his professional New York debut in a 1960 production of “The Balcony” at the Circle in the Square. He was seen on Broadway in “Blues for Mister Charlie” and drew critical notice for his performance in 1965’s “Hogan’s Goat” alongside Faye Dunaway.

Waite is survived by his third wife, Linda East, and two daughters from his first marriage.

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  1. Rob Johnson says:

    Goodnight Daddy! Rob Johnson,Amboy,Wa

  2. John Wise says:

    He was also the star of “On the Nickel” a rare and daring Independent feature film he also wrote and produced. Impossible to find anywhere, except maybe on Amazon. R.I.P., Mr. Waite.

  3. editor9999@hotmail.com says:

    He also starred in On the Nickel, an amazing independent feature that he also wrote and produced. R.I.P., Mr. Waite.

  4. James Gray says:

    He is a source of relaxing TV, and reminder of family values we need more of on television, thank t
    he lord he got to leave his legacy with us in the Waltons a gem of entertainment.

  5. Robin says:

    I still watch the reruns of The Waltons regularly when I want to relax and watch quality television. I think many of us thought of “Daddy” Walton as a father figure and he was such a role model for families. I also enjoyed watching him in anything he appeared in. He will live on in our hearts forever.

  6. Phyllis says:

    Loved The Waltons, what a great family program!! Had a hard time watching the program after Grandpa Zeb died and now it’s going to be even harder. Couldn’t help but love the whole family. Watched the reruns and will keep on watching them as long as they play. Rest in peace Mr. Walton and condolences to the family!

  7. jsanjuan1967 says:

    How sad it is? Good night, Mr. Walton!

  8. Carol says:

    Goodnight Ralph

  9. Kathy Leach says:

    I will truly miss this man. He was the real thing. Always looked forward to see him in anything. Rest In Peace you are with God now.

  10. Darlene says:

    “Goodnight, Daddy”. Always a fine actor and a good man. RIP

  11. John Wise says:

    He was also in “On the Nickel” — an amazing independent film that he also produced.

  12. Vee Abbott says:

    I loved the Waltons, still watch the reruns. it’s going to be sad watching the Waltons after this. Even though he was there for the full run, we’ll feel the ghost of hi s presence ,and the grief of his loss. I hope they make mention of his passing on the show. Condolences to his family and friends. Thank you, “John”, we’ll miss you.

  13. Breanne says:

    Ralph only has two children his oldest daughter died when she was 9 of leukemia and then by his third wife’s son Liam.

    • Jordy says:

      Actually, Ralph is survived by two daughters by his first marriage; Kathleen and Suzanne. The eldest of three daughters died. Ralph is survived by three children as Liam, his stepson by his third marriage to Linda, was adopted after they married. I too was adopted by this great man for a time, and I’m truly blessed and honored to have known him. Rest in peace Ralph. My thoughts go out to the family at this sad time. You changed my life and I’ll never forget you. Thank you for loving me. You will be missed, but you gave us a legacy.

  14. michelle Desper says:

    From crimora VA, I sure did love that show.and go by the house in nelson co every once in while.. Tell grandma and grandpa hello for us. And Ike

  15. michelle Desper says:

    Rest in peace.mr.Walton.sr. Going to miss u! Love the role u played as dad Walton.

  16. Good Night Pa…………………Sure gonna miss ya. RIP, my prayers go out to your family and friends.

  17. Gene Davis says:

    A talented actor for so many years …Loved him on The Waltons and NCIS I had forgotten about Look up and Live but I remember watching that as a child with my parents..R.I.P

  18. Debbie says:

    RIP Ralph . Thanks for the many years of good family enjoyment . You are a star in our eyes.

  19. Chris Darling says:

    Goodnight, Pa……

  20. smooth says:

    RIP Ralph, and thanks.

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