By Topher Gauk-Roger and Greg Botelho
(CNN) – Veteran character actor Ralph Waite – who many knew best from his time on The Waltons, though he also had regular roles in more recent series like Bones and NCIS – has died.
He was 85.
Waite died Feb. 13 at his home in Palm Desert, Calif., according to Steve Gordon, his family accountant. Jane Mead, a representative of the Spirit of the Desert Presbyterian Fellowship that Waite attended regularly, confirmed his death.
According to IMDB.com, Waite was already a Hollywood veteran with parts in movies like Cool Hand Luke and Five Easy Pieces, plus TV series such as Bonanza when he landed the role of John Walton Sr.
The Waltons struck a chord with many viewers during its run from 1972 to 1981, with Waite being a constant on that show as well as in several TV movies to follow.
Waite was twice nominated for an Emmy, first in 1977 for supporting actor in a comedy or drama series for Roots and the next year as lead actor in a drama for his Waltons role.
Waite also tried his hand at politics, running unsuccessfully as a Democrat for a congressional seat that includes Palm Springs, narrowly losing in 1990 and again in 1998 to Mary Bono, the widow of former congressman and onetime pop star Sonny Bono.
These forays didn’t stop Waite from continuing his day job, however.
He continued to score regular roles, for instance, on TV shows like The Mississippi, Murder One, The Practice and Grey’s Anatomy.
In fact, Waite was busy working right through last year playing recurring characters not only on Bones and NCIS but also Days of Our Lives.
Stephan Nathan, executive producer of Bones, remembered Waite as “a wonderful man.”
“A big loss,” Nathan tweeted. “RIP.”
Pauley Perrette, part of the NCIS cast, also tweeted condolences for the man she referred to as Papa Gibbs. Waite played the role of Jackson Gibbs, father of series star Mark Harmon’s character, Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
“We love him at NCIS so much,” Perrette said. “So, so sad.”