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
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
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.
S. Truett Cathy, the fast-food entrepreneur who turned a single restaurant into the multibillion-dollar Chick-fil-A empire, has died at age 93.
September 6, 2014 -- Updated 1757 GMT (0157 HKT)
Simone Battle, an "X Factor" finalist and G.R.L. singer, was found dead in a Los Angeles home, a coroner's spokesman said. She was 25.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 0226 GMT (1026 HKT)
Joan Rivers, the sassy comedian whose gossipy "can we talk" persona catapulted her into a career as a talk-show host, author and red-carpet maven, has died.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1246 GMT (2046 HKT)
Jimi Jamison, who belted out the hits "The Search is Over" and "Burning Heart" for 1980s rock band Survivor, has died. He was 63.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
CNN lost a much loved and respected colleague with the sudden passing of photojournalist Sarmad Qaseera.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1954 GMT (0354 HKT)
Acclaimed actor-director Richard Attenborough has died at 90, the actor's agent said.
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
The founder of the University of Phoenix, Dr. John G. Sperling, has died. He was 93.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Don Pardo, the announcer whose velvety baritone voice introduced "Saturday Night Live" hosts on NBC for decades, has died at age 96.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1934 GMT (0334 HKT)
Jim Jeffords, who shifted the balance of power in the Senate when he bolted from the Republican Party in 2001, died at age 80.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 2132 GMT (0532 HKT)
Former Z-Boys skater Jay Adams died after a heart attack while vacationing in Mexico with his wife. He was 53.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Actress Arlene Martel, who "Star Trek" fans know as Spock's bride-to-be, died of complications from a heart attack. Martel was 78.
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2048 GMT (0448 HKT)
Ed Nelson, best known for playing a doctor in the 1960s nighttime soap opera "Peyton Place," has died at 85.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 0308 GMT (1108 HKT)
Actress Lauren Bacall, known for her distinctive, husky voice and sultry sensuality, has died at age 89.
ADVERTISEMENT