Skip to main content

'Waltons' actor Ralph Waite dies at age 85

By Topher Gauk-Roger and Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 11:57 AM EST, Sun February 16, 2014
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 died in 2014. Click through to see people who died 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
updated 1:06 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
updated 4:18 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
Former Washington Mayor Marion Barry has died at age 78.
updated 6:40 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Mike Nichols, the award-winning director and pioneering comedian who was one of the few people to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award, has died at 83.
updated 9:13 AM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Jimmy Ruffin, silky-voiced singer of the Motown classic "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted," died in Las Vegas at 78.
updated 2:04 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
Prolific television producer Glen Larson passed away at the age of 77 after a battle with cancer. He produced many popular shows, including "Knight Rider" and "Battlestar Galactica."
updated 4:56 PM EST, Fri November 14, 2014
Diem Brown, the MTV reality star whose fight against cancer was an inspiration to many, lost that long battle at the age of 32.
updated 9:24 PM EST, Fri November 14, 2014
Former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne -- the first and, even now, only woman to lead that city -- has died.
updated 6:12 AM EST, Thu November 13, 2014
Actress Carol Ann Susi, whose brash Brooklyn accent reverberated on the hit television series "The Big Bang Theory," has died after a battle with cancer.
updated 10:35 AM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
A member of the Sugarhill Gang, whose pioneering hit "Rapper's Delight" brought hip hop to mainstream audiences 35 years ago, died at age 57.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Tue November 4, 2014
Tom Magliozzi, half of the "Click and Clack" team of brothers who hosted NPR's "Car Talk" radio show, died at age 77.
updated 9:12 AM EST, Sun November 2, 2014
Wayne Richard Wells, the frontman and founder of the California metal band Static-X, has died. He was 48.
updated 5:27 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Thomas Menino, who retired this year as the longest-serving mayor in Boston history, has died at 71 after a battle with cancer.
updated 4:22 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Elizabeth Norment, best known for her role as loyal secretary to Kevin Spacey's character on "House of Cards," died of cancer at 61.
updated 11:03 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Zambian President Michael Sata, who was nicknamed "King Cobra" for his fiery comebacks and larger-than-life personality, has died. He was 77.
updated 8:07 PM EDT, Sat October 25, 2014
Jack Bruce, bassist for the legendary 1960s rock band Cream, has died at 71.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
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.
updated 2:19 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Legendary fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, who spent half a century putting high society in haute couture, has died. He was 82.
ADVERTISEMENT