News

Ralph Waite, patriarch of ‘The Waltons,’ dead at 85

Ralph Waite, patriarch of ‘The Waltons,’ dead at 85

RALPH WAITE: This photo released by CBS shows Ralph Waite, as Jackson Gibbs, in an episode "The Namesake" from "NCIS," on Tuesdays, 8/7 CT on the CBS Television Network . Waite, 85, who played the father in TV's hit series "The Waltons," has died. Waite's manager, Alan Mills, says the actor died midday Thursday, Feb. 13, in the Palm Springs area. Photo: Associated Press/Cliff Lipson

By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Ralph Waite, who played the good-hearted but soft-spoken patriarch on the 1970s U.S. television drama “The Waltons,” died on Thursday in Southern California, the actor’s manager said. He was 85.

Waite, who served in World War Two and was an ordained Presbyterian minister, is best known for the role of John Walton Sr. on the CBS drama about rural Appalachian life during the Great Depression.

“He was the best client and a fantastic human being,” Waite’s manager Susan Zachary said, adding that the actor died in Palm Desert, California, where he lived.

PHOTOS: 2014 Notable Deaths

Waite, who left religion for about 50 years before rediscovering it again in 2010, was born in 1928 in White Plains, New York. He worked in publishing early in his career before moving onto acting.

One of his first film roles was a small part as the character Alibi in the 1967 Paul Newman film “Cool Hand Luke.” In recent years Waite had recurring roles in CBS crime drama “NCIS” and NBC daytime soap opera “Days of Our Lives.”

But Waite’s most enduring role was the Virginia lumber mill owner of Walton’s Mountain during the show’s run from 1972 to 1981.

He earned an Emmy nomination in 1978 for his role on “The Waltons.” His wife on the show, Olivia, was played by Michael Learned and Richard Thomas and Robert Wightman, both played their son, John Boy.

“Ralph was a good honest actor and a good honest man,” Learned said in a statement. “He was my spiritual husband. We loved each other for over 40 years. He died a working actor at the top of his game. He was a loving mentor to many and a role model to an entire generation. I’m devastated.”

Waite also earned an Emmy nomination in 1977 for his role as Slater, the third mate on a slave ship in the TV miniseries “Roots.”

Waite, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress three times as a Democrat, also appeared in the 1992 drama film “The Bodyguard” and 1993 action thriller “Cliffhanger.”

(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

Christopher Walken has no plans to retire

Fresh
walken

The Hollywood veteran doesn't plan on slowing down anytime soon.

in Entertainment

John Stamos says ‘Full House’ is coming back

Fresh
10-overlay5

Netflix is bringing back the hit '90s sitcom for a new generation.

in Trending, Viral Videos

TODAY’S MUST SEE: A proposal from the dog’s POV

Fresh
15-overlay7

Who needs a selfie stick when you've got man's best friend?

in Entertainment

Today in entertainment history: April 21

dolly

A look at the news making Hollywood headlines in years past.

in Entertainment

Roseanne Barr says she’s going blind

roseanne

The "Roseanne" star, 62, says her "vision is closing in now."