LOS ANGELES - Actor Ralph Waite, best known as the father in TV's hit series "The Waltons," died Thursday. He was 85.
Waite's manager, Alan Mills, says the actor died midday in the Palm Springs area."He was a wonderful guy," Mills said. "He was always kind, always generous, and a joy to work with."
Waite played John Walton Sr., the tough but lovable head of a large family trying to live out a meager existence in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in the Depression-era 1930s.
The actor was born in White Plains, N.Y., on June 22, 1928.
He had small roles in big movies (including "Cool Hand Luke" in 1967 and "Five Easy Pieces" in 1970) and did a lot of stage work, CBS Los Angeles said.
"The Waltons" which ran for nine seasons on CBS (1972-81) made Waite a star. TV Guide ranked Daddy Walton as TV's No. 3 all-time dad in 2004.
He played the father of Kevin Costner's character in the 1992 film "The Bodyguard" and was in 1993's "Cliffhanger." He had a recurring role in the offbeat HBO series "Carnivale" (2003) and made several guest appearances in television series in addition to returning as John Walton Sr. in a number of "Waltons" TV movies.
From 2009-2013, he made semi-regular appearances on NBC's "Days of Our Lives," as Father Matt and on CBS' "NCIS" as Jackson Gibbs.
When not acting, Waite switched to working behind the scenes as a director.
Waite even tried his hand at politics, running for Congress, unsuccessfully, on two occasions. In the most notable contest, Mary Bono, Sonny's widow, opposed Waite when he ran as a Democrat in 1998.