Upon earning his BA at Bucknell University, Ralph Waite embarked upon no fewer than three careers before deciding upon acting. First, Waite was a social case worker in New York's Westchester County, a job he quit after running into the stone walls of indifference and bureaucracies. Then, after spending three years at the Yale School of Divinity, he was a practicing Presbyterian minister; this, too fell by the wayside due to Waite's unwillingness to conform to church protocol and his disenchantment over the perceived hypocrisy of his fellow clerics. Finally, he worked as a religious editor for the publishing firm of Harper & Row. This job might have panned out, but Waite, separated from his wife and suffering an identity crisis, felt the need to "prove himself" by entering a tougher, more competitive field. Thus, at the age of 30, Waite began taking acting lessons. His professional debut in the off-Broadway production The Balcony proved so disastrous that it is little wonder he chooses to regard his 1965 Broadway bow in Hogan's Goat as the true beginning of his career. After an excellent showing as Jack Nicholson's impotent brother in Five Easy Pieces (1971) the offers began pouring in. In 1972, Waite was cast as John Walton in the immensely popular TV series The Waltons. During the nine-season run of that ratings bonanza, Waite helped form the Los Angeles Actors' Theatre. He also was prominently featured in the blockbuster miniseries Roots (1977), and wrote and directed (but did not star in) the 1980 film On the Money. His post-Walton credits included the TV series Mississippi, the film Cliffhanger (1993) and TV movies Crash and Burn and Sin and Redemption. Towards the end of his career, he had a recurring role on Day of Our Lives as Father Matt, and played the father of two leading men on two long-running series - Gibbs on NCIS and Booth on Bones. Waite died in 2014 at age 85.
- The eldest of five children.
- Joined the Marines in 1946.
- Following graduation from Yale Divinity School, became an ordained Presbyterian minister, but left after his eldest daughter died.
- Worked as a religious book editor at Harper & Row.
- Made his Broadway debut in the play Marathon '33 in 1963.
- Unsuccessfully ran for Congress twice, in 1990 and 1998.
- Founded an experimental theater company, the Los Angeles Actors Theater, in 1975.
- Played the father of two leading men on two long-running series at the same time – Gibbs on NCIS and Booth on Bones.