‘The Waltons’: Ralph Waite Battled Alcoholism During Show’s Massive Success

by Atlanta Northcutt
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The actor who plays the kind, hard-working father on the “Waltons” battled a strong addiction to alcohol while the show was reaching huge success.

The Waltons is a wholesome Southern family who were the focus of the beloved TV series. Behind the scenes of the Western TV show is a much sadder story.

Ralph Waite on “The Waltons”

The show aired on CBS from 1972 to 1981. John Walton is played by Ralph Waite, and Richard Thomas plays the character of his oldest son, John-Boy.

The show followed the Waltons’ success and downfalls through both the Depression and World War II. It’s loosely based on his novel “Spencer’s Mountain,” which was turned into a film in 1963.

Alcoholism and infidelity wasn’t a common practice on TV shows. The NBC show took off.

Waite also directed other episodes of The Waltons. He served in the US Marines. He became a minister and had a job at a publishing house. Waite then fell in love with acting.

He goes from the stage to the screen with roles in Paul Newman’s film “Cool Hand Luke” and Bob Rafelson’s “Five Easy Pieces,” where he plays the brother of Jack Nicholson. He receives

In Emmy nomination for his time on The Waltons. He also receives an Emmy nomination for his performance in the ABC miniseries “Roots.”

A Struggle With Alcoholism

Waite spoke about how his alcoholism affected his private life.

“I was a caring, responsible father to all of these kids,” he says. “But I was drinking the night before and being a drunk on the side.” Eventually, he added, “I found a way to get sober.”

Waite worked to rise in the ranks of politics. However, his attempts were unsuccessful. As the Democratic challenger for the congressional district including Palm Desert. In 1998 he vies for a seat in Congress that was left open after Sony Bono. Instead of Waite winning the election, Bono’s wife, Mary, won.

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