The man who played the patriarch on CBS’ long-running series The Waltons has died. Ralph Waite was 85. He also had been recurring since 2008 as Papa Gibbs, the father of Mark Harmon’s character, on NCIS. “Everyone at NCIS is deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and colleague Ralph Waite,” the show’s cast and crew said in a statement sent out by CBS tonight. “Ralph was family to us, a tremendous talent and a very special man. We truly cherish the time we had with him. Our hearts and prayers go out to his loved ones.” He also recurred on Bones as the grandfather of David Boreanaz’s character, played Father Matt in nearly 100 episodes of Days Of Our Lives and appeared in Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, Cold Case and The Practice.
But Waite was best known as “Daddy” on The Waltons. He starred for nine seasons on the Depression-era drama as John Walton Sr., who eked out a living at the family lumber mill on Walton’s Mountain. He scored an Emmy nom for the role in 1978 and also directed more than a dozen episodes of the hourlong series, which ran from 1972-81 and was followed by a series of telefilms.
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Waite’s acting credits date to the mid-1960s. He appeared on TV series including Bonanza and N.Y.P.D. and later as slave ship mate Slater in the landmark miniseries Roots, a key supporting role that earned Waite his first Emmy nom. He also worked on the big screen, including roles in films ranging from Cool Hand Luke and Five Easy Pieces to The Bodyguard and Cliffhanger. The White Plains, NY, native also starred in the mid-’80s CBS drama The Mississippi and did arcs on Steven Bochco’s Murder One and HBO’s Carnivale. Waite unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1990, vying for the seat from California’s 37th District, which includes Mid-City and West Los Angeles.