Without a Doubt He Was One of the Greatest TV Dads Ever. Most Notably, He Was John-Boy’s Dad on ‘The Waltons.’ Most Recently He Played Mark Harmon’s Dad on ‘NCIS.’ Ralph Waite Dies at 85

Feb 14, 2014  •  Post A Comment

"In 2004," according to The New York Times, "a poll of TV Guide readers of the ’50 Greatest Dads of All Time’ rated him No. 3, behind only Dr. Cliff Huxtable on ‘The Cosby Show’ and Ben Cartwright on ‘Bonanza.’"

He is John Sr., John-Boy’s dad on the 1970s TV mega-hit "The Waltons." John Sr. was played by Ralph Waite. Waite, 85, who lived in Palm Springs, Calif., died yesterday, Feb. 13, 2014, The Times reports. The cause of death was not reported.

Ralph Waite.pngRalph Waite as John Sr. on "The Waltons"

The story says: "The success of ‘The Waltons’ owed almost everything to the actors and the characters they played, members of a homespun, hardscrabble rural family used to surmounting challenges through the old-fashioned virtues. The foremost was John Jr., or ‘John-Boy,’ the oldest of seven children. John-Boy, played by Richard Thomas, was a serious young man with a passion to be a writer.

Almost as significant was Mr. Waite’s role as John’s father, John Sr., the family patriarch who combined wisdom, goodness, courage and a bit of a temper. He did not approve of hunting animals for sport, but hunted to put food on his hard-pressed family’s table. Though he shunned organized religion, his wife, Olivia [played by Michael Learned], called him ‘the most God-fearing man I know.’"

Adds The Times, "The viewing public lapped it up."

Upon hearing of Waite’s death, The Times reports that Learned said, “Ralph was a good honest actor and a good honest man. He was my spiritual husband. We loved each other for over 40 years. He died a working actor at the top of his game.”

The obituary notes, "As an actor, he ranged from Shakespeare to Beckett, from Broadway to soap operas, most notably as Father Matt on ‘Days of Our Lives.’ One of his two Emmy nominations was for playing Slater, the first mate of a slave ship in the ‘Roots’ miniseries, in 1977, a glaring contrast to the broad-minded John Walton. (The other Emmy nomination was for ‘The Waltons.’)"

The Times report adds: "’The Waltons’ was only one aspect of Mr. Waite’s far-flung life, although it is the reason that excited strangers hailed him in airports. He was a Marine, a social worker, an ordained Presbyterian minister who served two congregations, a book editor and a three-time Democratic candidate for Congress from California."

The story adds, "Mr. Waite’s first marriage ended in divorce, as did his second to Kerry Shear. In 1984, he married Linda East, who survives him. He is also survived by two daughters from his first marriage."

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