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 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
updated 11:19 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
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.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
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.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Singer and model Joanne Borgella, an "American Idol" contestant in 2008, died at age 32 after a battle with cancer.
updated 1:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
"August: Osage County" actress Misty Upham was declared dead by a Washington coroner after her body was found along a river in suburban Seattle.
updated 10:01 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Actress Elizabeth Peña has died of natural causes after a brief illness. She was 55.
updated 8:19 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
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.
updated 9:13 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Mark Bell, who founded the highly influential techno music duo LFO and later collaborated with Bjork on several iconic albums, has died.
updated 10:09 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Actress and comedian Jan Hooks died in New York. She was 57
updated 7:29 AM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
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.
updated 10:58 PM EDT, Sun October 5, 2014
Paul Revere, leader of the 1960s rock band Paul Revere and the Raiders, has died at age 76.
updated 8:03 PM EDT, Sat October 4, 2014
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.
updated 11:42 AM EDT, Sun September 28, 2014
Former U.S. Rep. James Traficant of Ohio died after suffering injuries in an earlier accident on his farm.
updated 11:36 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Eric "The Actor" Lynch, who became a celebrity among celebrities by calling in to Howard Stern's radio show, died at age 39.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
Emmy-winning actress Polly Bergen, whose TV and movie career spanned more than six decades, has died at age 84.
ADVERTISEMENT