Happy Birthday Ralph Waite: Remembering the Star of ‘The Waltons’ Born Today in 1928

by Brandi Stillings
Photo by Tibrina Hobson/WireImage

Wishing the late actor a “Happy Birthday” today, Ralph Waite was born this day in 1928. Originally from White Plains, New York, he eventually discovered his life’s purpose as an actor in his 30s. “The Waltons” star gained most of his notoriety on the classic CBS drama series. Earning him an Emmy nomination, he’s recognized for the role of John Walton Sr.

Remembered as a beloved fatherly figure, Waite passed away on February 13, 2014. Not only did he star on the hit TV show for nine years, but he also directed 15 episodes, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Actress and co-star Michael Learned played John Walton’s wife during the series. She spoke on Waite’s on and off-screen character, as well as the close bond they shared.

“Ralph was a good honest actor and a good honest man,” she said in Hollywood Reporter. “He was my spiritual husband. We loved each other for over forty years.

Then Learned continued to describe the influence Waite had on everyone.

“He died a working actor at the top of his game,” she added. “He was a loving mentor to many and a role model to an entire generation. I’m devastated.

Before he appeared on “The Waltons,” Waite had only been in one other TV show. He was in an episode of “Nichols.” Also, he earned an Emmy nomination for his work in the 1977 miniseries “Roots.”

‘The Waltons’ Former Star Ralph Waite’s Recent Work

His current roles include a recurring part as Reverend Norman Balthus on “Carnivale,” an HBO series. In addition, the veteran actor performed in the soap opera “Days of Our Lives.” During several seasons, Waite appeared in “NCIS” as Jackson Gibbs, and in “Bones” he played Hank Booth.

Established in 1975, Waite founded the Los Angeles Actors Theatre. In order to jump start the business, he used his own $50K to direct and produce “The Hairy Ape” and “The Kitchen.”

The company received numerous awards, such as the Margaret Harford Award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. They praised Waite’s performance theatre for “its consistently high standards, its commitment to adventurous theater and to community involvement.”

Following people on L.A.’s skid row, he produced, directed, wrote, and starred in the film “On the Nickel.” In 1983, Waite appeared as a crooked lawyer in “The Mississippi” series under Ralph Waite Productions.

In addition to acting, he tried to run for Congress and was unsuccessful. Waite’s also taken jobs as a social worker, publicity director, as well as an associate editor at Harper & Row. Not to mention, he’s been a minister at the United Church of Christ in Long Island.

The former parishioner and actor Bill Hayes told TV Guide in 1975 about Ralph Waite’s days in ministry.

“He was a top-notch minister and a dynamic actor in the pulpit even then,” he said. “But I don’t think Ralph ever enjoyed being asked to conform to the mold or the stereotype expected of most clergymen.”