Birthday: June 22, 1928
Died At Age: 85
Sun Sign: Cancer
Born Country: United States
Born in: White Plains, New York, United States
Famous as: Actor
Height: 6'0" (183 cm), 6'0" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Linda East (m. 1982), Beverly Waite (m. 1951 - div. 1966), Kerry Shear Waite (m. 1977 - div. 1981)
father: Ralph H. Waite
mother: Esther Mitchell
children: Sharon Waite
Died on: February 13, 2014
place of death: Palm Desert, California, United States
U.S. State: New Yorkers
City: White Plains, New York
education: Bucknell University, Yale Divinity School
Who was Ralph Waite?
Ralph Waite was a renowned American actor, theatre personality, and political activist. He gained fame for his portrayal of John Walton Sr. in the TV series ‘The Waltons’ and the subsequent TV movies. A latecomer to Hollywood, Waite went on to have a prolific career. Some of Waite’s best movies are ‘A Lovely Way To Die’, ‘The Magnificent Seven Ride’, ‘The Stone Killer’, ‘The Bodyguard’, and ‘Cliffhanger’. His most noteworthy TV appearances were in series like ‘Roots’, ‘Carnivàle’, ‘All My Children’, ‘CSI’, ‘NCIS’, ‘Days of Our Lives’, and ‘Bones’. He also starred in several TV movies, including, ‘The Waltons: A Decade of the Waltons’, ‘Growing Pains’, ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective Jr.’, and ‘Waiting for Godot’. Ralph was undoubtedly a legend in the theatre world, especially Broadway. ‘Blues for Mister Charlie’, ‘The Father’, ‘King Lear’, are just some of his greatest on-stage appearances. Additionally, he was a ‘Democrat’ & equal rights activist all his life and even ran for Congress.
Rise to Stardom
At the age of thirty, Ralph Waite changed his career from book editor to actor. He started training with the great Lee Strasberg at the ‘Actors Studio’ in New York. He made his debut on stage as the chief of police in a production of ‘The Balcony’ (1960). This was followed by his Broadway debut in ‘Marathon ’33’ (December 22, 1963 – February 1, 1964). He also mesmerized Broadway audiences in ‘The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald’ (November 5, 1967 - November 11, 1967), ‘The Watering Place’ (March 12, 1969), ‘An American Daughter’ (April 13, 1997 - June 29, 1997), and many more.
He made his TV debut with the series ‘Look Up and Live’ in 1966. Ralph Waite made his movie debut in ‘Cool Hand Luke’ (1967). In the next few years, he was seen in series like ‘N.Y.P.D’ (1967 – 1968) and ‘Nichols’ (1971), to name a few. He also acted in movies like ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ (1971) and ‘The Magnificent Seven Ride’ (1972), Although never quite a leading star, he became a stalwart of the industry.
In 1972, Ralph Waite landed perhaps his most famous role of John Walton Sr. in the TV series ‘The Waltons’ (1972 – 1981). It made him a household name. He would reprise the role in the TV movie ‘The Waltons: A Decade of the Waltons’ (1980). In 1977, he played the sadistic Slater, in the ‘Roots’ mini-series. He would again play John Walton Sr. in the TV movies ‘A Wedding on Walton's Mountain’, ‘Mother's Day on Walton’s Mountain’, and ‘A Day for Thanks on Walton's Mountain’, in 1982.
Ralph Waite’s next major role was in the blockbuster ‘The Bodyguard’ (1992). The movie made more than US $400 million against a budget of just US $25 million. It was his highest-grossing movie to date. He was next seen in the hit movie ‘Cliffhanger’ in 1993. In 1995, he was again seen in the TV movie ‘A Walton Wedding’. He also portrayed Reverend Norman Balthus in ‘Carnivàle’ (2003 – 2005). His other significant roles were as Hank Booth in the series ‘Bones’ (2009 – 2013), Jackson Gibbs in ‘NCIS’ (2008 – 2013), and Father Matt/Watt in ‘Days of Our Lives’ (2009 – 2014).
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In the late 1950s, Ralph Waite started picketing for ‘National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’. He also ran for Congress as a ‘Democrat’, in California in 1990 for the Riverside County-based 37th district. He ran twice in 1998 for Palm Springs-based 44th and 39th districts. He lost all three times.
Family & Personal Life
Ralph Waite was born on June 22, 1928, in White Plains, New York, to Ralph H. Waite and Esther Mitchell Waite. He was the eldest of five children. Ralph joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served there from 1946 to 1948. He completed his graduation in 1952 from the Bucknell University, Pennsylvania. Following that, he gained a Master’s degree from the Divinity School at ‘Yale University’. He soon became a minister for United Church of Christ, Fishers Island. Unfortunately, he was appalled by the church’s hypocrisy and quit. He then became an assistant editor of religious books and also the publicity director at ‘Harper & Row’.
Ralph Waite got married to Beverly Hall on December 29, 1951. They had three daughters together, Sharon, Kathleen, and Suzanne. Sharon died of leukemia, at the tender age of nine, in 1964. The crisis led Ralph Waite to start drinking heavily. Additionally, his decision to start acting led to his divorce with Beverly in 1966.
Ralph married actress, Kerry Shear, on August 27, 1977, and this marriage too ended in a divorce on August 31, 1981. Thereafter, he married Linda East on December 4, 1982 and was with her until his death. He died on February 13, 2014 in Palm Desert, California.