‘The Waltons’: Ralph Waite Didn’t ‘Know’ How Show Would Continue After Season 7

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

There were a lot of question marks surrounding “The Waltons” after their seventh season on CBS. Ralph Waite wondered if the show would go on.

Waite, who played patriarch John Walton on the CBS family drama, offered his assessment in a 1980 interview with Leta Powell.

“You know, I don’t know, I just don’t know,” Waite said. His answer comes after Powell mentions the death of actor Will Geer, who played Grandpa Walton. Ellen Corby, who played Grandma Walton, had suffered a stroke. Richard Thomas, who played John-Boy Walton, also left “The Waltons.”

‘The Waltons’ Star Found Public Solidly Behind CBS Family Drama

“I thought maybe last year was our last year, but the network feels that we still have something to say,” Waite said. “We have a strong public out there and I spent, we had a three-month hiatus, I spent three months traveling throughout the country to reacquaint myself with this country. Especially middle America.

“And I think they’re right,” Waite said. “Everywhere I went people were just delighted, came out to meet me, and I was treated like a big star everywhere I went. So there’s a lot of affection for this show.”

“The Waltons” did return for an eighth and ninth season. CBS, though, canceled the show after nine seasons and 221 episodes.

Throughout much of its CBS run, the Earl Hamner-created show produced solid ratings. During its final season in the 1980-81 TV ratings, “The Waltons” finished at No. 30. That was not good enough, though, for network executives.

Waite died on Feb. 13, 2014, at 85 years old.

Waite Never Won Emmy Award For His Work As John Walton

With such a high-profile role in “The Waltons,” one might believe that Ralph Waite would have won an Emmy Award for his work.

This, sadly, never happened. Why? Co-star Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen Walton, said in a YouTube video from September 2020 that Waite was underrated.

“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,” Norton said. “Will Geer was nominated as best supporting actor. So where do you put Ralph? Was he best actor? Was he supporting actor?”

Norton added that his lack of getting an Emmy was less about his acting ability than his role.