"The Waltons" cast: Judy Norton Taylor, Ralph Waite, Michael Learned, Ellen Corby, and Eric Scott. (AP Graphics Bank photo)
(USA TODAY) One of television's most enduring father figures has passed away.
Ralph Waite, who played the stalwart John Walton Sr. on The Waltons, a CBS drama hit of the 1970s and early 1980s, died Thursday at his home in Palm Desert, Calif., his manager, Alan Mills, said late Thursday. Waite was 85.
Waite became known to new generations of viewers on a current CBS hit, NCIS. He made numerous appearances as Jackson Gibbs, the father of Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) on the top-rated drama. Waite's most recent appearance on the series came in November.
He was busy in 2013 with appearances on other shows, including Fox's Bones and NBC's Days of Our Lives. He also acted in a recent short, Old Henry, that can be seen at insp.com.
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Waite appeared in nearly 200 episodes of The Waltons, the story of a close-knit Depression-era family whose episodes were known for its characters' good-night wishes to each other, along with follow-up TV movies. He received Emmy nominations for his roles on The Waltons and on the groundbreaking miniseries Roots.