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Published: Friday February 14, 2014 MYT 2:30:00 PM
Updated: Monday April 14, 2014 MYT 9:26:50 PM

Actor Ralph Waite, patriarch of 'The Waltons', dies at 85

Ralph Waite, who played the father in "The Waltons" television series, dies at 85. Photo credit: Reuters

Ralph Waite, who played the father in "The Waltons" television series, dies at 85. Photo credit: Reuters

Ralph Waite, the American actor most popularly known for his role as the patriarch on the 1970s US television drama The Waltons has passed away at age 85.

Ralph Waite, who played the good-hearted but soft-spoken patriarch on the 1970s US television drama The Waltons, died on Thursday in Southern California, the actor’s manager said. He was 85.

Waite, who served in World War Two and was an ordained Presbyterian minister, is best known for the role of John Walton Sr. on the CBS drama about rural Appalachian life during the Great Depression.

“He was the best client and a fantastic human being,” Waite’s manager Susan Zachary said, adding that the actor died in Palm Desert, California, where he lived.

Waite, who left religion for about 50 years before rediscovering it again in 2010, was born in 1928 in White Plains, New York. He worked in publishing early in his career before venturing into acting.

One of his first film roles was a small part as the character Alibi in the 1967 Paul Newman film Cool Hand Luke. In recent years, Waite had recurring roles in CBS crime drama NCIS and NBC daytime soap opera Days Of Our Lives.

But Waite’s most enduring role was the Virginia lumber mill owner of Walton’s Mountain during the show’s run from 1972 to 1981.

He earned an Emmy nomination in 1978 for his role on The Waltons. His wife on the show, Olivia, was played by Michael Learned and Richard Thomas and Robert Wightman, both played their son, John Boy.

“Ralph was a good honest actor and a good honest man,” Learned said in a statement. “He was my spiritual husband. We loved each other for over 40 years. He died a working actor at the top of his game. He was a loving mentor to many and a role model to an entire generation. I’m devastated.”

Waite also earned an Emmy nomination in 1977 for his role as Slater, the third mate on a slave ship in the TV miniseries Roots.

Waite, who ran unsuccessfully for US Congress three times as a Democrat, also appeared in the 1992 drama film The Bodyguard and 1993 action thriller Cliffhanger. – Reuters

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Entertainment, Ralph Waite, The Waltons, death, actor, obituary, patriarch, obit

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