‘The Waltons’: Who Was the Last Inspiration to Live in the Real Life Hamner Home?

by Keeli Parkey

As most fans of the beloved show are aware, “The Waltons” was based on a book by author Earl Hamner, Jr. That book was titled “Spencer’s Mountain.”

Years after the series came to an end, a member of Hamner’s family still lived in their family home in their small town.

The inspiration for “Spencer’s Mountain” and for “The Waltons” television series came from Hamner’s own life. He drew from his experiences growing up in Schuyler, Virginia. That small town is located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

The places and events of his childhood influenced Hamner – as did the people he knew and loved. One person from Hamner’s life who directly influenced a character in the beloved television show was his brother, Jim Hamner.

According to MeTV, Jim was younger than Earl. And it was Jim who was the inspiration for the character of Jim-Bob Walton in the series. Jim-Bob was the youngest of the Walton boys. The character was played by David W. Harper. Earl also wrote himself into the world of the Waltons. It was John-Boy Walton – the oldest of the family’s children – who was based on Earl himself. Richard Thomas played John-Boy.

Thanks to the success of “The Waltons,” Schuyler, Virginia, has become a must-visit place for many of the show’s fans. And over the years, many of those fans had the chance to meet Jim Hamner. See, Jim still resided in the Hamner family home long after the others had moved out or passed away.

The Hamner family home was almost 1,500 square feet in size. It had been in the family for more than 100 years. Jim was known to greet fans of “The Waltons” when they visited Schuyler. Many of these fans also visited the Walton’s Mountain Museum as well.

Learn More About the Inspiration for the Character of Jim-Bob on ‘The Waltons’

Earl Hamner Jr.’s younger brother, Jim Hamner, was someone the Schuyler community reportedly viewed as “local royalty.”

Unlike his famous older brother, Jim did not pursue a career in entertainment. When he was young, he decided to join the United States Army. Later, he spent his career working as a systems analyst. He worked that job for 35 years at the University of Virginia Hospital.

During his professional life, it was Jim who lived in the Hamner house. He also maintained it during that time.

It was in 2002 that Jim Hamner found himself at odds with the board of the Walton’s Mountain Museum. The board wanted to oust Jim as its chairman. Unsurprisingly, Earl Hamner Jr. supported his brother.

“I learned recently that while representing me, a member of my family was caused pain, humiliation and mental anguish at one of your meetings. Since my position on family relationship and obligation is well known, I am sure you will understand that I cannot continue to give you my support or allow you the use of my name,” Earl wrote at the time.

Unfortunately, because of his poor health during 2003, Jim was forced to sell the Hamner home. The house went up for auction that year. It sold for only $122,000, which given its connection to “The Waltons” seems like a very, very small amount.