Ralph Waite, veteran actor and star of the hit television show, "The Waltons" dies at the age of 85
(WARNER BROS. TELEVISION) - Ralph Waite, who played the good-hearted but soft-spoken patriarch on the 1970s U.S. television drama "The Waltons," died on Thursday (February 13) inSouthern California, the actor's manager said. He was 85.
Waite, who left religion for about 50 years before rediscovering it again in 2010, was born in 1928 in White Plains, New York. He worked in publishing early in his career before moving onto acting.
One of his first film roles was a small part as the character Alibi in the 1967 Paul Newman film "Cool Hand Luke." In recent years Waite had recurring roles in CBS crime drama "NCIS" and NBC daytime soap opera "Days of Our Lives."
But Waite's most enduring role was the Virginia lumber mill owner of Walton's Mountain during the show's run from 1972 to 1981.
He earned an Emmy nomination in 1978 for his role on "The Waltons." His wife on the show, Olivia, was played by Michael Learned and Richard Thomas and Robert Wightman, both played their son, John Boy.
Waite also earned an Emmy nomination in 1977 for his role as Slater, the third mate on a slave ship in the TV miniseries "Roots."
Waite, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress three times as a Democrat, also appeared in the 1992 drama film "The Bodyguard" and 1993 action thriller "Cliffhanger."