Actor Ralph Waite, TV’s Beloved Papa Walton, Dies At 85

By  | 

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) -- Actor Ralph Waite, best known for playing family patriarch Papa Walton on the 70s era smash “The Waltons,” has died.

Waite was 85.

He reportedly died in his Palm Desert home.

Waite played John Walton Sr., the tough but lovable head of a large family trying to live out a meager existence in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia in the Depression-era 1930s.

The actor was born in White Plains, New York on June 22, 1928.

He had small roles in big movies (including “Cool Hand Luke” in 1967 and “Five Easy Pieces” in 1970) and did a lot of stage work.

“The Waltons” which ran for nine seasons on CBS (1972-81) made Waite a star. TV Guide ranked Papa Walton as TV’s #3 all-time dad in 2004.

With the “Waltons,” Waite became sought-after in TV movies where he often played against type.

From 2009-2013, he made semi-regular appearances on NBC’s “Days of Our Lives,” as Father Riggin and on CBS’ “NCIS” as Jackson Gibbs.

When not acting, Waite switched to working behind the scenes as a director.

Waite even tried his hand at politics, running for Congress, unsuccessfully, on two occasions. In the most notable contest, Mary Bono, Sonny’s widow, opposed Waite when he ran as a Democrat in 1998.