‘The Waltons’: Ralph Waite Later Portrayed This Lead Character’s Dad on ‘NCIS’

by Matthew Wilson

Audiences may remember actor Ralph Waite for starring in the classic TV series “The Waltons.” But he appeared in numerous TV shows throughout his career including “NCIS.”

Waite played the recurring character of Jackson Gibbs for several seasons of the show. Jackson was the father of the main character of Leroy Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon. Waite was well accustomed to playing TV fathers, starring in “The Waltons” for nine seasons of the show. The actor brought his signature warmth and wisdom to the role.

Waite started appearing on the show during Season Six. His character had a complicated relationship with Gibbs on the show. The father and son were estranged for years prior to his appearance. But over the course of several guest appearances, their relationship began to thaw. During Season Seven, Gibbs defended Waite’s character after he kills a man that tried to rob his store.

Waite last appeared on the show during the episode “Better Angels” during Season 11 in 2014.

‘NCIS’ Said Goodbye to Ralph Waite

Waite passed away in 2014, shocking both fans of “The Waltons” and “NCIS” as well. His castmates on the show decided they wanted to properly honor Waite and the character he portrayed on the show. As a result, they opted for an emotional finale during Season 11. Rather than the usual cliffhanger and theatrics, the show wanted to explore the passing of Waite’s character.

They gave fans the chance to mourn the actor as the characters on the show mourned the loss of Jackson Gibbs.

“Ralph deserved more. He would have wanted us to stretch, to push the story envelope, to leave people feeling the loss of Jackson Gibbs, not just reflecting on it,” Gary Blasberg,”NCIS executive producer, wrote in an EW Guest blog. “The drive of ‘Honor Thy Father’ would undoubtedly be Gibbs mourning the loss of his dad. This needed to be a finale with real emotional resonance. A finale with heart and soul and warmth and pathos.”

The bulk of the episode was Gibbs coming to terms with the complicated relationship he had with his father. Like a passing in real life, there were things left unsaid between the characters. Gibbs mourned Waite’s character and the loss of his father in his life.

The episode served as a touching tribute to Waite’s career, exploring his character through various points in his life and the legacy he leaves behind. As an actor, Waite left behind a body of work for audiences to enjoy.