Born: June 22, 1928, White Plains, NY
Died: February 13, 2014, Palm
Ralph Waite, was beloved to TV viewers as the ultimate
father figure, John Walton, on The Waltons. He passed away at midday
on Thursday at his home in South Palm Desert.
He was nominated for an
Emmy in 1978 for his portrayal of the middle-American paterfamilias. He starred
on The Waltons for nine years and directed 15 episodes. "Ralph was a good honest
actor and a good honest man," said actress Michael Learned, who portrayed
Waite's wife Olivia onThe Waltons. "He was my spiritual husband. We loved each
other for over forty 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
Prior to landing his role on The Waltons, Waite had been in
only one other TV show, a Nicholsepisode. Waite also performed in the vaunted
miniseries Roots, for which he received a 1977 Emmy nomination.
recently, he appeared in Days of Our Lives and had a recurring role as Rev.
Norman Balthus on HBO's Carnivale, a part befitting a man who once served as an
ordained minister on Long Island. He also appeared as Jackson Gibbs in NCIS over
the course of several seasons and as Hank Booth in Bones.
Waite was the
founder and director of the Los Angeles Actors Theatre, which he established in
1975. To get the company off the ground, Waite allocated $50,000 of his own
money to produce and direct revivals of The Hairy Ape and The Kitchen, in which
he also performed.
LAAT won many critical awards, including the Margaret
Harford Award given by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for "its
consistently high standards, its commitment to adventurous theater and to
A former social worker and a recovering
alcoholic, Waite channeled that background into a film on the lives of people on
L.A.'s skid row, On the Nickel, which he produced, directed, wrote and starred
in. Under his own production banner, Ralph Waite Productions, he starred as a
criminal lawyer in the 1983 TV series The Mississippi. TV movies credits include
the titular role in The Secret Life of John Chapman, OHMS, Angel City and The
Politically active, he twice ran unsuccessfully for a
congressional seat, including a run for the seat left vacant by the late Sonny
Bono in 1998.
Ralph Waite was born June 22, 1928, in White Plains, N.Y.,
and graduated from Bucknell University. He later studied for three years at Yale
and earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree. At that juncture, he went on to have
stints as a social worker for the Westchester County Department of Welfare, as
well as publicity director and associate editor at Harper & Row. He was a
minister at the United Church of Christ in Garden City, Long Island.
was a top-notch minister and a dynamic actor in the pulpit even then," former
parishioner and actor Bill Hayes told TV Guide in 1975. "But I don't think Ralph
ever enjoyed being asked to conform to the mold or the stereotype expected of
most clergymen. He was disturbed by people telling him to straighten his tie or
shine his shoes or fix the hole in his sock. He was a very individualistic guy
who wanted to be himself."
was during his ministerial tenure that Waite traveled to his own Damascus, a
night he spent with Hayes at an acting class. At age 32, Waite left the ministry
to pursue acting.
His conversion from the church to the stage was
immediately successful. In 1960, Waite got his first stage role in a Broadway
production of Blues for Mister Charlie. In his first eight years of acting, he
landed appearances in eight Broadway plays, including Hogan's Goat, Watering
Placeand The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald. He also performed Blues for Mister
Charlie in London.
As his stage career gathered steam, Waite also
garnered small roles in top films: Cool Hand Lukeand Five Easy Pieces. In 1969,
he featured in coming-of-age saga Last Summer, which starred an
up-and-coming Richard Thomas.
His other films include Lawman, The Grissom
Gang, Dime Box and Sporting Club. He had two daughters, Kathleen and Suzanne.
Since 1984, he has been married to his third wife,Linda East.
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