Waltons Patriarch Ralph Waite Dead at 85

Ralph Waite DeadThe Waltons star Ralph Waite, who more recently recurred on Bones and NCIS, has died at the age of 85, our sister site Deadline reports.

Waite portrayed John Walton Sr. for nine seasons on the CBS Depression-era drama and in three NBC telefilms. After the series wrapped, he appeared on Murder One, Carnivàle and the miniseries Roots among others.

Bones fans will recognize Waite as Booth’s grandfather and caretaker Hank. He also played dad to Mark Harmon’s character Gibbs on NCIS, and recurred on Days of Our Lives as Father Matt.

Bones executive producers Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan issued the following statement:

“All of us at Bones mourn the loss of Ralph Waite.  We loved having him on set and in many ways his character was the moral center of our show as Booth’s plainspoken, loving, war hero grandfather.  The entire Bones family sends condolences to his family and loved ones.”

While the NCIS cast and crew issued this remembrance:

“Everyone at NCIS is deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and colleague Ralph Waite. 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.”

Waite’s Bones and NCIS co-stars also took to Twitter to react to the actor’s passing.

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101 Comments
  1. Sarah says:

    My heart just broke. We have lost a treasure, and will be dearly missed, lovingly remembered.

  2. Kat says:

    How utterly sad to read this news. I’ve liked him for a very long time. Great actor. He will be greatly missed.

  3. Andrew Hass says:

    My condolences to his family.TV has lost a legend.I’m wondering if NCIS will have Gibbs father die next season and have the character deal with that.

    • as524 says:

      They’ve still got time to do it this season….

      Here’s hoping they don’t wait as long as they waited with Ducky’s mom

      • Andrea says:

        Yes, I hope Gary Glasberg is now making plans to address this on-screen this season. I want a full-on episode (or at least the B story in an episode.) The Waltons was a bit before my time, so Ralph Waite will always be Jackson Gibbs to me. Both actor and character will be very much missed.

        • Elaine Byrne says:

          I, too, would like to see a memorial episode for Jackson Gibbs (Ralph Waite). He will be sorely missed. I’m sure he was a good person, and a wonderful actor. It always amazed me how he could put a twinkle in his eye on an NCIS episode when any of the “girls” shared dialog with him. His back-and-forth with Gibbs (Mark Harmon) was always from the heart for both actors.

  4. Liam says:

    He has been recurring on days of our lives for the past couple years also

  5. Mary Bucklew says:

    So so sad. Such a great character as Jackson Gibbs on NCIS. He will be missed.

  6. RIP says:

    RIP!! Don’t forget to add in his long-term DAYS OF OUR LIVES role. He is still appearing in eps.

  7. Janet says:

    I am so sad. He was a great actor!

  8. Barb says:

    What a month of losses: Shirley Temple, Sid Ceasar and now Ralph Waite. Very sad indeed.

  9. ScorpionGlow says:

    So sad. Rest In Peace.

  10. J says:

    I am so sad about this….he was a legend…and most recently I just LOVED him on Bones as Booth’s pops/grandfather Hank. They were a great team Ralph Waite and David Boreanaz. RIP Ralph :(

  11. Christy says:

    This makes me sad as I have loved him for years. I have most recently enjoyed him as Father Matt, the voice of reason and morality, on Days of Our Lives.

  12. Goodnight Mr. Waite. You will be missed.

  13. SuperTech says:

    Awww-this makes me so sad. I was always so happy when I saw him in anything I was watching. Very fond memories of watching The Waltons when I was growing up. He will be missed.

  14. wrstlgirl says:

    Father Matt!!!! And ironically I’m currently watching s2 of Carnivale as we speak. Very sad news.

  15. sladewilson says:

    RIP Jackson Gibbs. One of a kind – a true legend…. Rest Easy, Ralph Waite….

  16. Dalyce says:

    Good-night Pa Walton…gone home to the mountain.

  17. Wendy says:

    Damn, I hate reading this. I loved him on Bones as Booth’s grandfather/”Pops”! Sigh. May Mr. Waite rest in peace. :-(

    • JC says:

      I only know him as Jackson Gibbs, but his episodes were always some of the best.

      • JC says:

        That was meant to be a stand alone comment – I hit reply on accident. Sorry about that. :(

      • frankie707 says:

        He really was great as both Gibbs’ father and Booth’s grandfather. I wouldn’t be able to say which I enjoyed more.

        He’s in the episode of Bones they’re repeating tomorrow. It’s the wedding episode and Pops was of course there.

        I really hope both shows do something to honor him within an episode before this season is over. There should still be time for that; shouldn’t there?

  18. Larry says:

    Good by pa Walton

  19. Ashley says:

    I gasped at the news. Such a loss…

  20. bill says:

    The acting world has lost another great RIP Mr. Waite

  21. Brian Smith says:

    He also has been playing Gibbs’ father on NCIS lately.

  22. A. D. says:

    Goodnight John Sr. RIP

  23. Kim says:

    I was loving him as both Jackson and Hank. I hope both shows give him a good good bye episode.

  24. Nicole says:

    Rest in peace Ralph Waite. his career had spanded decades. I remember him from NCIS as Gibbs father.
    Earlier in the season there was mention of him being on the 250th episode. I wonder what they will do with his role of Jackson I hope they do a nice tribute to him and no just have it in passing the had passed away.

  25. Kathie Menker says:

    This is so sad. I’ve loved him as Gibbs’ father and Booth’s grandfather. Perfect roles for him and he did such a good job. Now both shows are probably going to have tearjerker episodes working his death into each storyline. Better stock up on tissues.

  26. Anon says:

    Where’s the American Idol recap?

  27. Kate says:

    I’m devastated. Fantastic actor and seemed like such a decent, honest man. :'(

  28. Bob says:

    RIP Poppa Walton. he was a good man and loved by many

  29. Sarah says:

    This is so sad. :( RIP Pops.

  30. MP says:

    I am so sad about Mr. Waite’s passing. I’m not from the Walton’s generation, but I loved him so much as Gibbs’ dad on NCIS. My all-time favorite NCIS episode is Jackson’s first appearance in the Heartland episode during Season 6, with the flashbacks of young Gibbs meeting Shannon at the train station in town. Such a lovely episode that has a permanent spot on my DVR. He will be so missed. Condolences to his family and friends.

  31. TV Gord says:

    There are precious few TRUE father figures on TV, Ralph leaves an impressive legacy!

  32. Dee says:

    I will never not think of John Walton but in later years he always made me smile to see him as Jackson Gibbs. He was simply great !!

  33. dee123 says:

    He was also recurring on DOOL wasn’t he?

  34. reg says:

    So Sad, grew up with you on the waltons… and loved you on Ncis, you will be missed!
    RIP Ralph

  35. prish says:

    I loved him on NCIS, and he made me love the character of Gibbs’ dad. I hope they recast the role.

    • Andrea says:

      I hope NCIS does not recast the role. I’d rather Jackson (as a World War II vet) receive an on-screen military funeral with honors.

      • Jack says:

        I agree with you wholeheartedly that Mr. Waite [aka, “Jackson Gibbs”, my favorite character} should have a full honor military funeral in real life and on the show with the NCIS cast as pallbearers.

      • Bruce says:

        well both shows could use this for a mini arc
        on ncis he is kidnapped and found dead,on bones mostly the same
        think how gibbs and booth would react, gibbs with losing zeva

  36. Godspeed, and “Good Night, Daddy.” Time to rest now…

  37. Bonnie Rexeus says:

    My Condolences to his family as well as his Tv Family. I know the #Boneheads will miss him greatly

  38. Sarah-Ann says:

    I’m so sad to hear of his passing, my heart just broke in piece. Great person on and of tv. He’ll be missed. My thoughts go out to his friends and family!

  39. Stormy says:

    It’s always in threes. Shirley Temple, Sid Caesar and now Mr. Waite. RIP

  40. GuessWhat says:

    David Boreanaz spelled Ralph’s last name wrong!
    Show some respect!
    I guess he’s used to everyone spelling his name wrong so must think it’s the norm.

  41. WonderWaage says:

    This year isn’t doing well.

  42. Mona says:

    R.I.P. Mr. Waite….our love & prayers go with you!

  43. Stacey says:

    RIP John Walton. RIP Pops Booth and finally RIP Jackson Gibbs. Incredible impact on television, from the 70’s up to the end of his life. Wow. He will be missed.

  44. Sharon says:

    So sad. Loved him as John Walton and as Jackson Gibbs. I hope they address his death on his current shows. Wonderful actor that will be missed.

  45. Judith Hamby says:

    Ralph Waite was my hero. Loved him on the Waltons–a wonderful father figure…………was pleased to see him on NCIS and Bones too – again as a father figure and grandfather too.
    He was every man and woman’s father figure. God Bless you Ralph Waite. We will miss you.

  46. Craig Ritsema says:

    John Walton, we will not forget you nor will forget Waltons Mountain. Cast members of great character and you epitomized that character. John/Ralph you will be missed as will Sid Caesar,Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Andy Griffith, Ted Knight, Jerry Reed, Jimmy Stewart, Paul Walker, Lucille Ball, Harvey Korman, John Candy, John Belushi and so many others. If you think about all the actors and singers who have passed away in the last 10 to 20 years you’ll realize that it’s not only the older generation but that the young die also. John/Ralph and ALL the other GREATS, may you ALL Rest In Peace. You will be missed.

  47. Melinda Sherry says:

    Good night daddy! My children grew up with the waltons and we also said goodnight to each other. I have been watching the episodes on ISPN. & hallmark. They make me feel good & less alone in my old years (73). Also it was a gentler kinder time. Bless him & his family & Walton’s cast. :))

  48. Joey says:

    Loved him on NCIS and Carnivale. RIP

  49. Gritree says:

    I was watching NCIS season 6, a small little episode called “Heartland” when I decided I would look online to find out when or if Mr. Waite was scheduled to appear on NCIS again in season 11 and was all happy about the hopes i had for seeing him on the show again, when the news then popped up that he had passed away, I almost broke down I tears, I loved him as booth’s granddad and all, but it was him as Jackson Gibbs which made me love him, especially the episodes “The Namesake” & “Better Angels”. I do hope that neither show ignores it (doubt they would since his characters added so much to booth and jethro) but I also hope they give him a excellent ending and hopefully for NCIS, will bring back Billy Dee Williams character of Jethro Moore for Jackson’s goodbye.

    Thank you Mr. Waite, we all loved you and you will be missed.

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