Best Known For
Ralph Waite was an American actor best known for playing John Walton Sr. on the 1970s television series The Waltons.
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
Born on June 22, 1928, in White Plains, New York, Ralph Waite earned degrees from Bucknell University and Yale Divinity School before beginning an acting career. Best known for playing the role of John Walton Sr. on The Waltons (1971-1981), when the series ended, Waite continued to work in television and film. Following long-held political aspirations, he unsuccessfully ran for a seat in Congress in 1990 and 1998. He died on February 13, 2014, at age 85.
"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."
The eldest of five children, Ralph Waite was born in White Plains, New York, on June 22, 1928, to Esther Mitchell and Ralph H. Waite. After graduating from high school, young Ralph joined the U.S. Marines and served for two years between 1946 and 1948. He then entered Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree.
In 1951, Ralph Waite met and married Beverly Hall, who inspired him to go into social work in New York's Westchester County. Bureaucratic barriers and the indifference of his superiors discouraged him, however, so he quit to enter Yale Divinity School. Ordained as a Presbyterian minister, he soon found himself at odds with church protocol and disenchanted with the hypocrisy he saw in his fellow clerics.
Waite eventually found a position as a religious editor for book publisher Harper & Row. He also became active in politics, picketing for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
By the time he was 30, other demons in Ralph Waite's life had begun to reveal deeper problems, and he went through a period of deep soul-searching. He began taking acting lessons in 1960, making his professional debut in the off-Broadway production of The Balcony. He began drinking around this same time, starting a battle with addiction that would last for the next 14 years. By 1965, Waite was starring opposite Faye Dunaway in the play Hogan's Goat—a role that brought him both critical acclaim and self-confidence.
Waite met with tragedy in 1964 when his 9-year-old daughter, Suzanne, died of leukemia. After Waite's marriage to Hall ended in 1969, he traveled to Hollywood, California, where he found small bit parts in films such as Cool Hand Luke (1967). He also continued his stage work, appearing in The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald and the Shakespearian classics Hamlet and Twelfth Night.
Ralph Waite caught a big break in 1970, landing the part of Carl Dupea, Rpbert Dupea's (Jack Nicholson) brother in Five Easy Pieces. More critical acclaim for the actor followed, and in turn, so did many offers. In 1972, Waite was cast in the role that would forever define him as an actor, of patriarch John Walton Sr. on the immensely popular television series The Waltons, which told the story of a small farming family living in Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II. Over its nine-year run (1971-1981), The Waltons earned high ratings and several Emmy Awards.
Not wanting to be forever identified as John Walton, however, Waite extended his talents into other projects, including the lead in the film The Secret Life of John Chapman (1976) and the role of Slater on the blockbuster miniseries Roots (1977), for which the actor received an Emmy nomination.
profile name: Ralph Waite profile occupation:
Sign in with Facebook to see how you and your friends are connected to famous icons.
Your Friends' Connections
Included In These Groups
Lot of actors play politicians on the big and small screens, but few have made the transition in real life. At every level of government, there are actors who have used their charisma, good looks, and personalities to get the policies they support enacted. Though Hollywood has a reputation as a city of liberals, many conservative actors have been members of the Republican party. From Ronald Reagan to Sonny Bono, here's a look at famous actors who went on to careers in politics.
Actors Turned Politicians 20 people in this group
Famous Cancerians 589 people in this group
Famous Actors 1024 people in this group