It is not a good week to be a Hollywood legend. Back on Monday, preeminent child star of the '30s and '40s, Shirley Temple passed away at her California home. She was 85. Then, just yesterday, comedy icon Sid Caesar (a man that countless modern comedians cite as an influence and inspiration) died at the age of 91, after a short battle with an undisclosed illness.
Today, the TV and film industry lost another of its cherished mainstays, when actor Ralph Waite passed away at age 85. No cause of death has been released as of yet.
Waite is easily best remembered for his work as John Walton Sr., patriarch of the titular clan on the beloved family drama 'The Waltons.' The program aired on CBS from 1972-1981, and Waite holds the distinction of being the only actor to appear as a regular in all nine seasons. He also reprised his role in all six post-series TV movies. Surprisingly enough, Waite was actually not the original choice for the part of John Sr. Actor Andrew Duggan played the role in the original 1971 pilot movie 'The Homecoming: A Christmas Story.' I think we can all agree that things worked out for the best.
While 'The Waltons' remains Waite's best known endeavor, that only scratches the surface of the man's nearly 60 year career. In 1977, Waite took on an equally memorable, but entirely different role in the acclaimed miniseries 'Roots.' Waite played third mate Slater, a vicious, monster of a man who would as soon step on a slave's face as look at them. Seeing the former Daddy Walton play such an uncharacteristically vile person was quite the shock to 1970s audiences, but that didn't prevent Waite from earning an Emmy nomination for his work.
In more recent times, Ralph Waite has made his mark with a whole new generation of TV viewers, by way of three memorable roles. First, Waite played the recurring role of Seeley Booth's grandfather Hank on the FOX crime drama 'Bones.' Waite's initial turn as Hank in 2009 was very well received, and he was invited back for additional episodes in 2011 and 2013.
During that same time frame, Waite also played the recurring role of Jackson Gibbs, father to Mark Harmon's 'NCIS' character Leroy Jethro Gibbs. He appeared in a total of eight episodes, spanning from 2008-2013. Finally, Waite has been providing council to the citizens of Salem since 2009, in his role as Father Matt on the soap opera 'Days of Our Lives.' How fitting is it that Daddy Walton spent the rest of his career playing memorable "fathers"?
Ralph Waite is survived by his third wife Linda East, and three children born during his first marriage. We here at TVRage extend our condolences to his family, friends, and fans, and we thank you for joining us in bidding him one last "good night."