Skip to main content

'Waltons' actor Ralph Waite dies at age 85

By Topher Gauk-Roger and Greg Botelho, CNN
February 16, 2014 -- Updated 1657 GMT (0057 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ralph Waite dies at his Palm Desert, California, home, two sources say
  • He was a veteran Hollywood actor, having appeared in many movies and TV series
  • He was best known as John Walton Sr. on the hit show "The Waltons"
  • Waite worked well into his 80s on shows like "Bones" and "NCIS"

(CNN) -- Veteran character actor Ralph Waite -- who many knew best from his time on "The Waltons," though he also had regular roles in more recent series like "Bones" and "NCIS" -- has died.

He was 85.

Waite died on Thursday afternoon at his Palm Desert, California, home, according to Steve Gordon, his family accountant. Jane Mead, a representative of the Spirit of the Desert Presbyterian Fellowship that Waite attended regularly, confirmed his death.

According to IMDB.com, Waite was already a Hollywood veteran with parts in movies like "Cool Hand Luke" and "Five Easy Pieces," plus TV series such as "Bonanza" when he landed the role of John Walton Sr.

Click through to see people who passed away in 2014. Click through to see people who passed away in 2014.
People we lost in 2014
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: People we lost in 2014 Photos: People we lost in 2014

"The Waltons" struck a chord with many viewers during its run from 1972 to 1981, with Waite being a constant on that show as well as in several TV movies to follow.

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 also tried his hand at politics, running unsuccessfully as a Democrat for a U.S. representative seat that includes Palm Springs -- narrowly losing in 1990 and again in 1998 to Mary Bono, the widow of former congressman and "Sonny and Cher" star Sonny Bono.

These forays didn't stop Waite from continuing his day job, however.

He continued to score regular roles, for instance, on TV shows like "The Mississippi," "Murder One," "Carnivale," "The Practice" and "Grey's Anatomy."

In fact, Waite was busy working right through last year playing recurring characters on not only "Bones" and "NCIS" but also "Days of Our Lives."

Stephan Nathan, "Bones" executive producer, remembered Waites as "a wonderful man."

"A big loss," Nathan tweeted. "RIP."

Pauley Perrette, part of the "NCIS" cast, also tweeted condolences for the man she referred to as Papa Gibbs.

"We love him at NCIS SO much," Perrette said. "So so sad."

People we've lost in 2014

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0146 GMT (0946 HKT)
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Ben Bradlee, the charismatic Washington Post editor who guided the paper through the era of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, has died. He was 93.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
Legendary fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, who spent half a century putting high society in haute couture, has died. He was 82.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam (right) in Sydney with former Labor Party leader Kim Beazley. Whitlam, one of the nation's most admired figures who led the country through a period of massive change, died on October 21, 2014, aged 98, his family said.
Edward Gough Whitlam, the former Australian Prime Minister who strengthened ties abroad, has died.
October 19, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Singer and model Joanne Borgella, an "American Idol" contestant in 2008, died at age 32 after a battle with cancer.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1712 GMT (0112 HKT)
"August: Osage County" actress Misty Upham was declared dead by a Washington coroner after her body was found along a river in suburban Seattle.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1401 GMT (2201 HKT)
Actress Elizabeth Peña has died of natural causes after a brief illness. She was 55.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
Isaiah "Ikey" Owens, the keyboardist in Jack White's backing band, has died at age 38. The musician also played with bands such as Mars Volta and Free Moral Agents.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1313 GMT (2113 HKT)
Mark Bell, who founded the highly influential techno music duo LFO and later collaborated with Bjork on several iconic albums, has died.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
Actress and comedian Jan Hooks died in New York. She was 57
October 7, 2014 -- Updated 1129 GMT (1929 HKT)
Geoffrey Holder, a versatile artist known for his ability as a dancer, actor and -- most famously to most of America -- a pitchman for 7Up, has died at age 84.
October 6, 2014 -- Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT)
Paul Revere, leader of the 1960s rock band Paul Revere and the Raiders, has died at age 76.
October 5, 2014 -- Updated 0003 GMT (0803 HKT)
Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier died of a heart attack in Port-au-Prince at the age of 63, a family member told CNN.
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 1542 GMT (2342 HKT)
Former U.S. Rep. James Traficant of Ohio died after suffering injuries in an earlier accident on his farm.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1536 GMT (2336 HKT)
Eric "The Actor" Lynch, who became a celebrity among celebrities by calling in to Howard Stern's radio show, died at age 39.
September 21, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Emmy-winning actress Polly Bergen, whose TV and movie career spanned more than six decades, has died at age 84.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
Singer George Hamilton IV died at a Nashville hospital following a heart attack. He was 77.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1530 GMT (2330 HKT)
Northern Ireland's former first minister and former Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley has died. He was 88.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
Richard Kiel, the actor best known for playing the James Bond villain "Jaws," died at age 74 in a California hospital.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 2056 GMT (0456 HKT)
Actress Molly Glynn, who played an emergency room doctor on several "Chicago Fire" episodes, died from injuries after a tree fell on her during a storm.
ADVERTISEMENT