‘The Waltons’ Creator Was So Impressed By Lynn Hamilton He Tried to Craft an Entire Series Around Her

by Joe Rutland

Memorable episodes of The Waltons still stand the test of time and show creator Earl Hamner Jr. believed he had a diamond in Lynn Hamilton. The actress would play Verdie Grant on the classic TV show in a number of episodes. Some might remember Lynn Hamilton from her role on NBC’s Sanford & Son. But on The Waltons, Hamilton’s dramatic acting appearances were worth even Hamner thinking about creating a series for her.

‘The Waltons’ Earl Hamner Jr. Tried Creating Series For Lynn Hamilton

One episode of the CBS family drama was titled “The Family Tree.” Verdie is researching her family history with some help from Jason Walton, played by Jon Walmsley. Now, Hamilton had auditioned for a role on The Waltons but didn’t get the part.

Verdie Grant first shows up in the first-season episode titled “The Scholar.” Los Angeles Times critic Cecil Smith said at the time that Hamilton’s performance was “unforgettable.” We get more from MeTV. “Lynn Hamilton played Verdie Grant in the play that touched me more deeply than anything I saw on television last season: ‘The Scholar,’ the episode of The Waltons that won dramatist John McGreevey an Emmy,” Smith wrote. Hamner cast her in a TV pilot as the mother of a Waltons-like family living in the 1950s. That never happened, though.

Actress Also Had Memorable Role In Sitcom ‘Sanford & Son’

Hamilton told the Los Angeles Times in 1973 that she was constantly cast older than she was at the time. Hamilton was playing 60-year-olds when she was just 16 years old. But she was happy in the 1970s to have aged into those roles she was given as a younger star. She could play a dramatic role like Verdie offset by the comedic turn as Donna Harris, Fred Sanford’s girlfriend.

“This may not be the proper thing for a lady to say, but I’m glad I’ve reached the time of life when I can do so many things,” Hamilton said. She told Smith in an interview how much easier it was to identify with a character being at the same time in her life. “I think the thing I like now is that I’m old enough to play myself,” Hamilton said.

Remember we mentioned Sanford & Son? She played Donna. Well, producer Aaron Ruben saw something in her, too. Ruben cast her as a landlady at first. But he then created Donna, just for her, and she held her own up against the crankiness of the character made famous by Redd Foxx.

The Waltons ended in 1981 but Hamilton stayed busy in TV and movies. Hamilton played Verdie Grant twice in The Waltons TV movies in 1993 and 1997. She retired in the 2000s with a final TV role on a 2009 episode of Cold Case.