Upon earning his BA at Bushnell 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 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 include the TV series Mississippi (1985) and such films as Cliffhanger (1993). In retrospect, it is fitting that two of Ralph Waite's TV-movies of the 1990s bore the titles Crash and Burn and Sin and Redemption.