Ralph Waite, who played John Walton Sr. on The Waltons for nine seasons, died Thursday at age 85. While he’s best known for his Emmy-nominated role as the patriarch on the long-running 1970s CBS drama, Waite has had recent recurring roles on NCIS, Bones, and Days of Our Lives.
EW spoke with Waite last year for our annual Reunions Issue, bringing the Walton family back together more than three decades after their show went off the air. “What has moved me the most is the mail I’m still getting,” Waite told EW at the time. “They tell me that I was their surrogate father, the one who brought them up.” David W. Harper, who played youngest son Jim-Bob, reflected on the importance of their reunion. “You know, this may be the last time we’re all together. This is a chance for us to come full circle.”
Below, see our full article from that issue.
“Subversive” is not the first word (or the 10th) that springs to mind when someone mentions The Waltons. The 1970s series, about a rural Virginia family struggling through the Great Depression, ran for nine seasons on CBS, earned 13 Emmys, and at its peak was watched by an estimated 18 million people weekly. But the rap on the show has always been that it was “sweet” or “sentimental.” So what’s shocking about rewatching it now, more than 30 years after its finale, is how wrong — or, at best, reductive — that is. “People think it was this sugary show,” says Michael Learned (matriarch Olivia Walton), 74. “But it was groundbreaking in many ways.” READ FULL STORY