Saturday, February 15, 2014

Ralph Waite

Ralph Waite, who played the dad on The Waltons, has passed on.  I was also interested to learn that he had roles on Days of Our Lives (as a priest) and Bones (as Booth’s grandfather).  And, of course, he was the Mark Harmon-character’s father on NCIS!

I have long been interested in him from a political and a religious standpoint.

Politically, my understanding is that he was very left-wing.  I was one time watching a documentary, and it was saying that Ralph Waite stood with Ed Asner in publicly opposing President Ronald Reagan’s policies on El Salvador.  The documentary was presenting this as a very controversial stand on Ed Asner’s part, one that did not help Ed Asner very much.  But Ralph Waite was willing to make that stand alongside him!  Many actors and actresses are liberal, but how many of them are serious enough about their liberal beliefs to make a bold stand for them when doing so could place them under attack?  Ralph Waite was serious about his beliefs.

Waite also ran for Congress three times as a Democrat, and, in 1998, he was defeated by Mary Bono, the wife of Sonny Bono.

I was one time talking with a Republican lady, and she was disappointed to learn that Ralph Waite was left-wing, since she loved his character on The Waltons.  My response to her was that his character on The Waltons was rather left-wing, too, in that he supported Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, whereas it was Grandma Walton who was the right-wing Republican.  Granted, John Walton, Sr. was probably not as left-wing as Ralph Waite was, but he still tended to lean in the Democratic direction.

Religiously, Ralph Waite attended Yale Divinity School and was a minister and religious editor prior to his acting career.  Later in his life, he came back to prioritizing faith, and he taught Sunday school at a progressive Christian church.  See here to hear him talk about his faith journey.  On The Waltons, his character was not particularly religious.  He believed in God, on some level, but he did not regularly go to church, to the annoyance of his devout wife, Olivia.  One reason that I loved The Waltons was on account of its exploration of religious issues.  People like to call it a Christian show that had Christian values, but I always found its exploration of religion to be more open-minded and honest than that.

R.I.P., Ralph Waite.

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