‘The Waltons’ Star Richard Thomas Recalls Crashing His Car Before Winning an Emmy Award

by Craig Garrett

Richard Thomas was so excited to be nominated for an Emmy for his performance in The Waltons that it led to a car accident. It’s an incident that the actor might be able to live down, except that he mentioned the fender bender in his Emmy award acceptance speech. Thomas recently recounted the incident in an interview with Gold Derby.

Despite playing a rural Virginian on the classic tv series, Jon-Boy actually hails from New York City. He didn’t drive at all until he moved to Los Angeles and began filming The Waltons. He knew in a car culture like Hollywood, he would have to get a driver’s license. Needless to say, Richard Thomas had some interesting driving instructors. “Okay, I gotta get a license. I’m gonna have to drive. Fortunately, there were lots of Teamsters on a set to give me lessons,” the actor joked.

After getting his license, the actor still felt uncomfortable driving. Especially in hectic Los Angeles traffic. “So I got my license, but I was a very new driver. I mean, I had only been literally been driving for a few months by the time I [wrecked my car]. I was 21 years old, the actor explained. Driving to the Emmy awards ceremony he was nominated for in 1973, Thomas was also preoccupied. “[I was] trying to think of an acceptance speech. I hit the car in front of me,” the actor mused. However, the fender bender at least gave Thomas a hook for his acceptance speech when he did when was the Lead Actor in a Drama series. He mentioned the accident in the speech, to the delight of those in attendance. “My insurance guy said that was the first claim he’d ever seen filed on national TV,” the actor joked.

Richard Thomas beyond The Waltons

Of course, Richard Thomas went on to play John-Boy for 122 episodes before leaving the series in 1977. He was replaced in the role by Robert Wightman until the series ended in 1982. However, Thomas returned to the role in 3 made for tv movies in the 1990s. More recently, Richard Thomas returned to the Walton franchise in a 2021 CW tv movie. The Waltons: Homecoming was a remake of the original Waltons Christmas special from the 70s. In the film, Thomas played the narrator.

Thomas has a huge career outside of the Waltons, though. Perhaps his second most well-known role is as the lead in the 1990 tv miniseries, It. He was a featured player in the acclaimed FX spy series The Americans. He played FBI special agent Frank Gad in that series. More recently, Richard Thomas has had a recurring role on the Netflix drama series Ozark.