Not everybody knows what they want to be when they grow up. Some of us never figure it out. Others, like Ralph Waite, figure it out a little later than most. “The Waltons” star didn’t discover acting until he was 30 years old. But once he did, he never looked back.
Fans know him as John Walton, Sr., the hardworking and loving family man on Walton’s Mountain. He spent nearly 10 years playing the character on the classic television show. But he didn’t always have a passion for acting.
In 2013, the actor sat down with INSP and talked about what drew him to the profession.
“…I thought that’s a wonderful thing to be able to do. To bring to a community the sense of what it means to be alive and what it means to laugh and cry,” he said. “And that’s what actors do, and that was sort of the thing that got me, ‘I think I’ll look into this.’ Communicating something deeper about life than we ordinarily experience in our daily lives, when we go to work and play with our children and such.”
Ralph Waite held all kinds of jobs throughout his youth. He was a social worker, an editor at Harper and Row, and he even studied to become a Presbyterian minister at one point.
‘The Waltons’ Star Discovers The Stage
In 1960, he began a career in stage acting. By 1965, he had earned critical praise for his work in “Hogan’s Goat” on Broadway, which starred Faye Dunaway. With his confidence high, he moved to California and began getting small roles in movies.
It wasn’t until 1972 that “The Waltons” came calling. He took the role of John Walton, Sr. and has been a household name ever since.
The passion he had for acting is plain to see in his 2013 interview.
“To bring to that community, to my community, some of the great thoughts and some of the great experiences and some of the great joys and some of the great sorrows of life,” he said. “To remind us of what it means to be in this life. And I think art has a way of doing that. And I think acting and theater, and television hopefully–television often trivializes life–it still has the power to penetrate deeply into what it’s all about, and have us think a little bit about it and experience it.”
Ralph Waite died in 2014 at the age of 85. But he lives on through his work.