'Father Walton' actor Ralph Waite dies at 85
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
2/14/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
He was known to TV viewers as Papa Walton, the wise father to his farmhouse brood in the Depression-era series "The Waltons," but actor Ralph Waite had countless other roles on the small and big screen. He had even served as an editor and a Presbyterian pastor. Waite has passed away at his residence in Palm Desert, California at the age of 85.
He was known to TV viewers as Papa Walton, the wise father to his farmhouse brood in the Depression-era series "The Waltons," but actor Ralph Waite had countless other roles on the small and big screen.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - Waite had substantial roles in movies like "Cool Hand Luke" and "Five Easy Pieces," plus TV series such as "Bonanza" when he first landed the role of John Walton Sr.
Set in the 1930s, "The Waltons" TV series struck a chord with many viewers during its run from 1972 to 1981. Waite was twice nominated for an Emmy, first in 1977 for supporting actor in a comedy or drama series for "Roots" and the next year as lead actor in a drama for his Waltons' role.
Waite had tried his hand at politics, running unsuccessfully as a Democrat for a U.S. representative seat that included Palm Springs. He narrowly lost in 1990 and again in 1998 to Mary Bono, the widow of former congressman and "Sonny and Cher" star Sonny Bono.
Waite continued to score regular roles, for instance, on TV shows like "The Mississippi," "Murder One," "Carnivale," "The Practice" and "Grey's Anatomy."
Waite worked right through last year playing recurring characters on not only "Bones" and "NCIS" but also "Days of Our Lives."
Born in 1928, in White Plains, New York, Waite served in the Marines, and then enrolled at Bucknell University. He earned a bachelor's degree and did graduate work at the New School of Social Research in New York, then changed course and entered the Yale University Divinity School.
Ordained a Presbyterian minister and spent four years as a pastor in New York before he decided on a new path.
"I felt uncomfortable. I felt somewhere my life had taken a wrong turn," Waite said. "I was never a particularly religious man. I was more interested in social justice."
Landing a job as an editor at the Harper & Row publishing house, he took a friend's suggestion in 1960 to study acting. He began appearing on and off Broadway.
Waite landed small parts in films such as "Cool Hand Luke" and "Five Easy Pieces" before winning the role as John Walton.
"Before I did 'The Waltons' TV series, I couldn't conceive of worrying about playing a bad guy or any other part that interested me," said in a 1976 interview. "But if you travel around the country, you begin to recognize the immense affection people have for the character I play."
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