Ralph Waite, a veteran actor who was perhaps best known for portraying the ultimate father figure, John Walton, on “The Waltons,” died at the age of 85, on Thursday.
According to reports, the death of Waite, who lived in Palm Springs, Calif., was confirmed by his manager, Allan Mills. The cause of the death was not immediately determined, Mills reportedly said. Waite was said to be in good health and had appeared last year in episodes of “NCIS,” “Bones” and “Days of Our Lives.”
"The Waltons," which aired on CBS from 1972 through 1981, starred Waite as John Walton. According to IMDB.com, Waite was already a Hollywood veteran, having played parts in movies such as "Cool Hand Luke" and "Five Easy Pieces," along with appearances in TV series such as "Bonanza," when he landed his role in “The Watsons.”
Waite was nominated for an Emmy award in 1977 for supporting actor in a comedy or drama series for his performance in "Roots" and the following year again, as lead actor in a drama for his role as Walton.
Waite was born in White Plains, N.Y., on June 22, 1928 and was the eldest of five children. In a 1977 interview with People magazine, he reportedly called his youthful environment “very secular, nonartistic.”
“I was never taken to a play or concert or church,” he reportedly said. “Yet I was a show-off, a dreamer, a storyteller.”
After graduating from high school, he joined the Marine Corps, and later went to Bucknell University, where he met Beverly Hall, whom he married in 1951.
Waite was also in politics in the Coachella Valley during the 1980s and 1990s.
"I got a sense of how inspiring our democracy and freedom are to other people in the world," Waite reportedly told UK's The Times in 1990. "I decided ... this was the occasion to rededicate myself to our political life."
Many celebrities from the entertainment industry took to Twitter to mourn Waite’s death. Here are some of the tweets:
Actress Bo Derek wrote on her Twitter account: “Another great one gone Ralph Waite, the rock-solid father of TV's 'The Waltons,' dies at 85.”
Actress Judy Norton Taylor wrote: "There are no words to express the loss of Ralph Waite. My friend, my co-worker, my "Daddy". You will forever live..."
Stephen Nathan, executive producer of Bones, wrote: "Today #Bones lost Ralph Waite. A wonderful man. A big loss. RIP."
Actor Pej Vahdat wrote :"Rest in peace Ralph Waite. What an honor to have worked with you."
Malcolm Prince, radio producer, wrote: "Night Ralph Waite RIP...such a charming man. I interviewed him in Palm Springs a few years ago. Loved #TheWaltons"