When Ralph Waite, as John Walton, Sr., comes into our homes and our hearts on, “The Waltons,” he teaches us lessons in love, compassion and humility. The man who would become one of TV’s favorite fathers was born on June 22, 1928. Sadly, the renowned actor passed away in February, working to the very end. He would have been 86.
Now we celebrate his birthday, his life and legacy. His personal life was not always easy, but what he gave us was the comfort and security we call “Daddy.”
“I think Ralph would not mind me saying that the series had a profound influence on his life. He had a very checkered past. He had been a pastor. He had been an actor. And he had been a teacher. His career had been, not ruined, but lessened by the fact that he was an alcoholic. When he came to The Waltons to do the first episodes, he was still drinking, but as he said once, himself, that the character of the father, the make-up of the family, the character of the family itself, became very sobering to him, and it literally sobered him up, so that he was able to overcome his alcoholic trait. But that was not an overriding character of Ralph. He was a very deep man, a very gifted actor. Actors have the ability to give you great gifts, and Ralph’s gift to me was his image of my father.
Ralph was able to portray a man he never met, but with such sympathy and yet with restraint, because we purposefully did not want to make his character a replica of ‘Father Knows Best,’ and so occasionally, if one of the kids would go to him and ask a question, he would very honestly say, the character would, very honestly say, ‘I don’t know ask your mom.’ So he was not all knowing. He was human, and I think Ralph projected that quality so beautifully.”