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Born June 22, 1928 in White Plains, New York, USA
Died February 13, 2014 in Palm Desert, California, USA
Birth Name Ralph Harold Waite Jr.
Height 6' (1.83 m)
Mini Bio (1)
Ralph Waite was born in White Plains, New York on June 22, 1928. Educated at Bucknell University where he graduated with a BA degree, Waite existed rather aimlessly as a young adult while trying to find his way in the world. Occupations came and went, including social worker, religious editor for Harper & Row, and even Presbyterian minister after spending three years at the Yale School of Divinity. At age 30, however, he began to study acting and found his true life's passion.
Waite made his professional NY debut in a 1960 production of "The Balcony" at the Circle in the Square and was seen on Broadway in "Blues for Mister Charlie" before earning fine reviews in 1965 alongside Faye Dunaway in "Hogan's Goat". This was enough to encourage him to move West where he began collecting bit parts in prestigious movies, including Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Five Easy Pieces (1970). One of those films, the coming-of-age Last Summer (1969) starred an up-and-coming talent named Richard Thomas, who, of course, would figure prominently in Waite's success story in years to come. Waite continued to thrive as well on the stage appearing in both contemporary plays ("The Trial of Lee Harvey Osward") as well as Shakespearean classics (Claudius in "Hamlet" and Orsino in "Twelfth Night").
Stardom came for him in the form of the gentle, homespun Depression-era series The Waltons (1971). In the TV-movie pilot, the roles of John and Olivia Walton were played by Andrew Duggan and Patricia Neal. The Earl Hamner Jr. series, however, would welcome Waite along with Michael Learned, and make both, as well as Richard Thomas playing their son John-Boy, household names. Waite also directed several episodes of the series during the nine seasons. Throughout the seventies, he strove to expand outside his Walton patriarchal casting with other TV mini-movie endeavors. Those included Roots (1977), for which he received an Emmy nomination, the title role in The Secret Life of John Chapman (1976), OHMS (1980), Angel City (1980) and The Gentleman Bandit (1981). He also appeared in a few films including On the Nickel (1980) which he wrote and directed.
Throughout the run of the series, Waite continued to revert back to his theater roots from time to time. Notable was his role as Pozzo in Waiting for Godot (1977), which was televised by PBS, and a return to Broadway with "The Father" in 1981. Waite also founded the Los Angeles Actors Theatre in 1975 and served as its artistic director.
The Waltons (1971), which earned him an Emmy nomination, ended in 1981 and Waite ventured on to other TV character roles during the 80s and 90s but less visibly. In his second TV series The Mississippi (1982), which was produced by his company Ralph Waite Productions, he played a criminal lawyer who abandoned his practice (almost) for a leisurely life captaining a riverboat. It lasted only a year. There have been other more recent theater excursions including "Death of a Salesman" (1998), "The Gin Game" (1999), "Ancestral Voices (2000) and "This Thing of Darkness" (2002). He also had a recurring role on the offbeat HBO series Carnivàle (2003) and in 2009 began putting time in on the daytime soap Days of Our Lives (1965) as Father Matt. Waite was able to carry with him a certain grizzled, rumpled, craggy-faced, settled-in benevolence, although he was quite capable of villainy. He always seemed more comfortable in front of the camera wearing a dusty pair of work clothes than a suit. He continued to act well into his 80s, most notably playing the father of Mark Harmon on NCIS (2003).
For many years, Waite had held passionate political ambitions. He twice ran unsuccessfully for a Congressional seat -- in 1990 and 1998. A Palm Desert resident during his second attempt, the 70-year-old Californian was a Democratic hopeful for a seat left vacant by the late Sonny Bono after his fatal skiing accident in 1998. He was ultimately defeated by Bono's widow, Mary Bono.
Waite died in Palm Desert, California on February 13, 2014, at age 85. He is survived by his third wife, Linda East, whom he married in 1982 and two daughters from his first marriage.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / firstname.lastname@example.org
Linda East (4 December 1982 - 13 February 2014) (his death)
Kerry Shear Waite (27 August 1977 - 31 August 1981) (divorced)
Beverly Hall (1951 - 1966) (divorced) (3 children)
Trade Mark (4)
Playing fathers of families/children, and fathers of the church,
Father roles post The Waltons as having been widowers.
Deep grouchy voice
The role of John Walton Sr. on _"The Waltons" (1972)_.
Unsuccessfully ran for Congress in California to fill the unexpired term of the late Sonny Bono, achieving the Democratic nomination, then defeated by Mary Bono (Sonny's widow), April 7, 1998.
First ran for congress in 1990, as the Democratic nominee, only to lose against incumbent Representative Al McCandless (R).
John Walton Sr., Waite's character on The Waltons (1971), was ranked #3 by TV Guide in its list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time" [20 June 2004 issue].
Stepfather of Liam Waite.
Stepgrandfather of two boys, by stepson Liam Waite, Tristan River Waite, born October 12, 1998, and Asher Sky Waite, born September 2001. The mother of both boys was Liam's then fiancée Natasha Henstridge.
Grandfather of Jackson Taddeo-Waite and Charlotte Ray Rosenberg.
Ex-son-in-law of Pearl Shear.
Did not attend the funeral of Ellen Corby, when the actress passed away in 1999.
Ralph Waite passed away on February 13, 2014. Just before his death, his final role was on Days of Our Lives (1965).
Executive Producer of Ralph Waite Productions from 1983 to 1984.
Once owned a house in Rancho Mirage, California.
Appeared on the front cover of TV Guide 5 times.
The eldest of five children.
Served in the United States Marine Corps.
Before he was a successful actor, ordained minister and political activist, he was the religious editor for book publisher Harper & Row.
He also became active in politics, picketing for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
After his divorce, at age 38, he moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1966, to pursue a career in acting. His two daughters stayed with his ex-wife in New York.
Between Norman Lloyd, Angela Lansbury, Dick Van Dyke, Ernest Borgnine, Mickey Rooney, Betty White and Larry Hagman, Waite was one of the stars in Hollywood never to retire.
In On the Nickel (1980), Waite played a recovering alcoholic, in real-life, he was also a former alcoholic.
Longtime friend of Hal Williams.
Upon his death, he was cremated. His remains were buried at the White Plains Rural Cemetery, White Plains, Westchester County, New York.
Survived by his wife, one child, one stepson, three grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.
Founder of the popular eatery Don and Sweet Sue's Cafe in Cathedral City, California.
Made his Broadway debut in Blues for Mister Charlie.
Had conducted a memorial service for his aunt, Grace Haviland Waite, at the Quaker Meeting House in Purchase, New York, in 1989.
Up until the ninth and final season, Waite had appeared in each and every episode of The Waltons (1971).
Founder of the Los Angeles Actors Theater, which he financed in large part by himself.
Didn't start acting until he was age 32.
Was named after his father.
Acting ran in his family.
Before he was a successful actor, ordained minister and political activist, he was also a social worker.
Just before his death, he attended the book signing of his ex-The Waltons (1971) co-star, Mary McDonough, in Los Angeles, California.
Was a longtime volunteer and board member of the ABC Alcohol and Recovery Center in Indio, California, serving for years as president.
Met his second wife, Kerry Shear Waite, when she showed up as a volunteer stage manager/actress at the Los Angeles Actors Theatre.
His problems with alcohol began when his 9-year-old daughter, Sharon, passed away.
Before he was a successful actor and a political activist, he was a bartender.
Became an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ.
Graduated from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Work, and a Master's Degree from Yale University Divinity School.
His father, Ralph H. Waite, was a construction engineer, and his mother, Esther (née Mitchell) Waite, was a housewife.
He was an active member of Spirit of the Desert Presbyterian Fellowship in Palm Desert, California.
Met his first wife, Beverly Hall, in college. She inspired him to go into social work in New York's Westchester County.
His eldest daughter, Sharon Waite, died of leukemia when she was 9 years old in 1964.
Served in the United Marine Corps for 2 years.
Until his death, he resided in Palm Desert, California.
His former mother-in-law, Pearl Shear, died in 2009 and lived to be age 91. Shear guest-starred on The Waltons (1971) with him.
When Waite's class had a 40th reunion in 1986, but he was starring in a play in New Haven. Unable to attend the main reunion dinner, he showed up for a brunch the following day.
Is almost 3 months younger than James Garner. He guest-starred with him on an episode of Nichols (1971), and died 5 months before him.
In 2008, veteran actor James Garner was planning to come out of retirement from on camera roles when he was cast in NCIS (2003), but having a stroke soon after being cast, prevented him from doing it. The role was ultimately given to Waite, who was also born in 1928, but whose health was holding up rather better at that time. In the end, Waite passed away five months before Garner.
Was a staunch Democrat.
Classmate of former news editor Milt Hoffman.
His grandson Jackson Taddeo-Waite is a successful producer.
He was physically healthy and active until contracting pneumonia, which caused his death at age 85.
Ralph Waite passed away on February 13, 2014, at age 85, and within five months of three other legends, also born in 1928, aged 85 or 86: Shirley Temple, James Garner and Maya Angelou. The Last of Whom he co-starred in the first episode of Roots (1977).
Best remembered by the public for his starring role as John Walton Sr. on The Waltons (1971).
Friends with: Michael Learned, Ellen Corby, Will Geer, Joe Conley, Ronnie Claire Edwards, Noble Willingham, Wilford Brimley, William Schallert, Mary Jackson, Jack Warden, Edward Asner, Earl Hamner Jr., Harry Harris, Larry Hagman, Hal Williams, Nora Marlowe, Mark Harmon, David McCallum, Dinah Shore, John Ritter, Mariclare Costello, Lewis Arquette, Lynn Hamilton, Pearl Shear, John Aniston, and E.G. Marshall.
Graduated from White Plains High School in White Plains, New York, in 1946.
Did not want to play the lead role in The Waltons (1971) series, because he didn't want to be committed in doing a long-running TV series, but Earl Hamner Jr. encouraged him to do so.
Acting mentor and friends of Richard Thomas and Mary McDonough.
Began The Waltons (1971) at age 44.
Father of Sharon, Kathleen and Suzanne.
Personal Quotes (7)
Just as theater has to be where people live, actors have to go out in the marketplace - not be cut off by a lens. Either an artist grows or he stagnates.
You only mature when you face problems you can't deal with.
'The Waltons' was profoundly important after years of wandering around. I was 44 and cut off from family and friends. It nurtured me back to a sense of family and who I am. It was a transforming experience.
The beauty of life is in people who feel some obligation to enhance life. Without that, we're only half alive.
I have vanity and greed enough for one person. But at the same time, I feel in my bones you lose a lot of life's value if you don't see yourself as a member of the family of man.
I was never taken to a play or concert or church. Yet I was a show-off, a dreamer, a storyteller.
I'm not any more moral than my neighbors.