‘The Waltons’: John Actor Ralph Waite Never Won an Emmy Award

by John Jamison

“If John Walton ran for president, he would win.”

Judy Norton, “The Waltons” actress who played Mary Ellen on the show, recalled how people use to look at Ralph Waite’s character as the perfect father. They would have elected him president if they could.

You’d think leaving that kind of impression would earn some official recognition. Of all the adult actors on “The Waltons,” however, Ralph Waite was the only one that never won an Emmy Award. Judy Norton, his former co-star, had an idea as to why this was the case.

In a video posted to her Youtube in September of 2020, Norton explained how underrated she thought Ralph Waite was.

“Ralph was the only member of the adult cast- Grandma, Grandpa, Momma, Daddy, and John-Boy -that didn’t win an Emmy,” she said. “And I think that was simply because he fell between categories. Richard Thomas was always nominated as best actor. Will Geer was nominated as best supporting actor. So where do you put Ralph? Was he best actor? Was he supporting actor?”

Waite fell between the cracks. According to Judy, his failure to win an award had less to do with his acting ability than it did his role. In a show like “The Waltons” that follows such a large cast, it can be hard to carve a true category for a single character.

Ralph earned a single nomination for his role as John Walton in 1978 but he received very little critical recognition otherwise.

“I think that is a tragedy,” Norton continued. “I think he was so underrated as an actor.”

Losing Ralph Waite Was Like Losing a Family Member to ‘The Waltons’ Star

Ralph Waite became a father figure to much of the cast. Judy Norton remembered one of the last times the whole group was together. Moreover, Waite was ill at that point, and he asked each one of them how their lives were going.

“It was very profound,” Norton said in the 2020 video. “Perhaps Ralph, knowing he was ill, wanted that last opportunity to really connect with each of us. It was a very special evening and something I will always remember. And it was not too much after that that we got word about his passing, and it was losing a family member. I will miss him always.”