Ralph Waite

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Ralph Waite
Ralph Waite.jpg
Waite at The Waltons 40th Anniversary in 2012
Born (1928-06-22)June 22, 1928
White Plains, New York, U.S.
Died February 13, 2014(2014-02-13) (aged 85)
Palm Desert, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1954–2014
  • Beverly Waite (1951–1966)
  • Kerry Shear Waite (1977–1981)
  • Linda East (1982–2014)
Children 3

Ralph Waite (June 22, 1928 – February 13, 2014) was an American actor. His best known role was as John Walton, Sr., on the 1972–1981 CBS TV series The Waltons, which he also occasionally directed. He also portrayed the slave ship third mate Slater in the mini-series Roots. In addition, he appeared in many guest roles on numerous television series, most recently in a recurring role in the CBS series NCIS as Jethro Gibbs' (Mark Harmon) father.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Waite, the oldest of five children, was born in White Plains, New York, to Ralph H. Waite, a construction engineer, and his wife Esther (Mitchell) Waite.[2] Too young for World War II, Waite served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1946 to 1948, then graduated from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. He worked briefly as a social worker. He earned a master's degree from Yale University Divinity School and was an ordained Presbyterian minister and religious editor at Harper & Row in New York City before deciding on an acting career.[3]

He was a member of the Peninsula Players summer theater program during the 1963 season.[4]

Waite was married three times, two marriages ending in divorce. He had three daughters from his first marriage. His eldest daughter, Sharon Waite, died of leukemia when she was nine years old in 1964.[5] A stepson, Liam Waite, is also an actor.

After 50 years away from organized religion, Waite returned in 2010 and became an active member of Spirit of the Desert Presbyterian Fellowship in Palm Desert, California.[3]

Ralph Waite died peacefully on February 13, 2014, from age-related illnesses; he was 85 years old.[6]

Political involvement[edit]

Waite ran unsuccessfully for Congress in California as a Democrat on three occasions: in 1990 he challenged veteran GOP incumbent Al McCandless in the Riverside County-based 37th district, losing by five percentage points. In 1998 he ran in the special election for the then-Palm Springs-based 44th district left vacant by the death of incumbent Sonny Bono.[7] He was defeated in that election by Mary Bono, Sonny's widow, and lost to her again that November.

On October 21, 1991, Waite introduced then former California Governor Jerry Brown prior to the latter's speech announcing his candidacy for the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination.[8]

Electoral history[edit]

Year Office Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct
1990 U.S House of Representatives
District 37
Jeffrey Jacobs 29%
Ralph Waite 71%
103,961 44.8% Bud Mathewson 27%
Al McCandless 73%
115,469 49.8%
1998 U.S House of Representatives
District 44 (special election)
Ralph Waite 24,228 28.8% Mary Bono 53,755 64%
1998 U.S House of Representatives
District 39 (general election)
Ralph Waite 57,697 35.7% Mary Bono 97,013 60.1%




As director[edit]

As producer[edit]

As writer[edit]



  1. ^ Haley, Alex. "Alex Haley.com". Roots. Alex Haley.com. Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Ralph Waite Biography (1928?–)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) - News & Announcements - ‘The Waltons’ star Ralph Waite finds a home in church". Pcusa.org. August 6, 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  4. ^ Peninsula Players 65th Anniversary Program, 1999
  5. ^ Interview with Beverly Waite. http://judson.org/images/Judson_House_21_Beverly_Waite.pdf
  6. ^ "The Waltons' actor Ralph Waite dies at 85 in Palm Desert", "Mydesert.com", February 13, 2014
  7. ^ Lyman, Rick (February 13, 1998). "On Stage and Off". New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 
  8. ^ http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/BrownA

External links[edit]