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    The Waltons' Ralph Waite Dead at 86; Actor Played Family Patriarch John Walton Sr. on the Classic TV Drama

    The Waltons, Ralph Waite CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

    Good night, Papa Walton.

    Ralph Waite, who played family patriarch John Walton Sr. on the classic drama The Waltons, died today at the age of 86, according to reports.

    Per The Hollywood Reporter, the veteran actor passed away at his home in South Palm Desert, Calif.

    Waite's run on The Waltons as mill worker John, a loyal husband and father of seven whose spirit and faith never flagged even in the face of hardship brought by the Great Depression and World War II, lasted for nine seasons, during which he also directed 15 episodes.

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    Ralph Waite Tibrina Hobson/WireImage

    Though the sentimental nature and old-fashioned values showcased by The Waltons makes it seem almost as if the series could have been made during the time it depicted (once television had been invented, that is), it actually enjoyed its original run on CBS from 1972 to 1981.

    In 2002, Waite's John Sr. took the No. 3 spot on TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time," behind only The Cosby Show's Cliff Huxtable and Bonanza's Ben Cartwright.

    The fictional family's good nights, during which the camera would pan away from the Walton family's Virginia homestead to the sound of two parents and seven kids all saying individual good-nights to each other, made for one of the show's most iconic images.

    In addition to his forever-classic role, which he also reprised in several Waltons TV movies after the show signed off in 1981, Waite also scored an Emmy nomination for his role as Strikes, a mate on a slave boat, in the seminal miniseries Roots.

    Waite also appeared on the big screen in films such as Cool Hand Luke, Cliffhanger and The Bodyguard, in which he played the father of Kevin Costner's titular protector.

    He had dozens of TV appearances to his name, including roles on CarnivàleThe PracticeCSI, Bones, Grey's Anatomy, NCIS and, most recently, Days of Our Lives.

    The veteran thesp also cofounded the Los Angeles Actor Theater in 1975.

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