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
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
R.I.P., Ralph Waite.
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