“The Waltons”: What Happened To The Cast Of The Beloved ’70s Drama?

Based on the book “The Homecoming: A Novel About Spencer’s Mountain,” “The Waltons,” which was produced by “Homecoming” writer Earl Hamner Jr., became one of the top shows in the ’70s with its bright cast of characters and engaging storylines. The show, which lasted nine seasons, won several awards, including the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series. After its final episode on June 4, 1981, the cast of the show reunited for six TV films, including 1993’s “A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion.” We take a look at 12 cast members of the beloved show and see what they’ve been doing since.


12) Richard Thomas

001-12-richard-thomas-6aa6804953ee326dc31cd062ff2a0000Richard Thomas played the lead role of John-Boy Walton, which earned him an Emmy Award in 1973. Aside from acting, the New York City native co-produced the films “For All Time” and “Summer of Fear.” In 1994, he married his second wife Georgiana Bischoff, and they have one son together. Overall, he’s the father of two sons and triplet daughters.

Speaking of family, what happened to his on-screen father?

11) Ralph Waite

002-11-ralph-waite-888a0240d95ef8de44defb44d307bafeRalph Waite is best known for playing John Walton, Sr. on the show. Aside from acting, the New York native tried to run for Congress on three separate occasions, but he came up short each time. Three seems to be a common number in his life; he was also married three times. On February 13, 2014, he died at the age of 84.

His on-screen wife had the same amount of luck with love, though.

10) Michael Learned

003-10-michael-learned-beee374e554d65b031943eeeb6825d88Michael Learned, who played Olivia Walton, was married four times. She entered her first marriage when she was only 17. The Washington D.C. native won three Emmy Awards for her time on “The Waltons.” While filming the show, Michael struggled with drinking problems, but she has been sober since 1977.

What happened to the eldest members of the family?

9) Will Geer

004-9-will-geer-216ada4b286d0736641fb6e94c3271ffWill Geer played Zebulon “Grandpa” Walton, and his performance earned him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Unfortunately, he passed away after finishing season six of the show. Before his death, he created the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, which combined his love of acting and gardening.

What happened to Grandma?

8) Ellen Corby

005-8-ellen-corby-d52d9b6cc4b0ab87c0a80163f81af8f2Ellen Corby, who gained an Oscar nomination for her work in the 1948 film “I Remember Mama,” played Esther “Grandma” Walton on the show, but a stroke in 1976 limited her on-screen presence. From 1934 to 1944, she was married to her only husband Francis Corby. The Philadelphia native died on April 14, 1999 from a stroke at the age of 87.

Her on-screen grandson was able to show off his true love on television.

7) Jon Walmsley

006-7-jon-walmsley-cdd35ef274303bbcfb3bf5b3f8770351Jon Walmsley played the role of John’s second oldest brother Jason, who was a musician. In real life, the English actor has worked with various musicians throughout his career, including The Doobie Brothers, Gregg Allman, and Merle Haggard. In 2015, he released the single “Good Night (feat. Judy Norton).”

Walmsley wasn’t the only musically inclined person on the cast.

6) Judy Norton Taylor

007-6-judy-norton-taylor-9cf049125aac4a6db36bc605ca705d76On the show, Judy Norton Taylor played John’s oldest sister Mary Ellen. In 2015, she released a live album titled “Reflections,” which features songs from her one-woman show. Aside from acting, the California native has directed the musicals “Annie, Get Your Gun” and “Hello Dolly.” She has been married to her third husband Robert Graves since 2002.

Her on-screen sister has been busy with various radio appearances.

5) Mary Elizabeth McDonough

008-5-mary-elizabeth-mcdonough-9653d18f83a84ddd35b17508323d3698Mary Elizabeth McDonough played John’s second sister Erin, and the Los Angeles native reprised the role for every TV movie, but she didn’t show up for the 2010 “A Walton’s Family Reunion” special. She has made several appearances on the radio show Get Focused Radio with Kate Hennessy. In 2011, McDonough wrote a book about her acting career titled “Lessons from the Mountain: What I Learned from Erin Walton.”

Her other on-screen brother has changed career paths since the show.

4) Eric Scott

009-4-eric-scott-05a934ff50b471bb8972c31cd068b439Eric Scott played the role of Ben Walton on the series, and he’s one of the few to have appeared on “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story.” While he has appeared in the following reunion films, the Los Angeles native turned his attention towards his own parcel delivery service titled Chase Messengers. He has been married to Cynthia Ullman Wolfen since 2001, and they have two kids together. Scott also has a daughter from a previous marriage.

His on-screen brother has also been going down a different road, which led to a brief working reunion between the two of them.

3) David William Harper

010-3-david-william-harper-3c1520b5adffc455a7a36b3430195182David William Harper played the role of John’s youngest brother Jim Bob. After leaving the acting business behind in 1997, the Texan worked for Chase Messengers, which is owned by castmate Eric Scott. Harper still attends conventions across the country, and he’s back in school studying business and history.

The youngest castmate on the show (and his on-screen sister) decided to help change the world.

2) Kami Cotler

011-2-kami-cotler-42e62076b90c8ec5b570ce7b0643ffe1Kami Cotler played the role of youngest daughter Elizabeth. The Long Beach native turned down acting to become a full-time teacher and principal at Environmental Charter Middle School. That’s not all for Cotler; she also managed a cafe and began her own boutique travel company. She is currently married with two children.

Her fellow castmate also went to school to pursue her dreams.

1) Peggy Rea

012-1-peggy-rea-6320f8348335a44c964db42d3578fb7dBefore playing Rose Burton on the show, Peggy Rea left UCLA to take a stab at business school. After having jobs as a production secretary and an assistant, the Los Angeles native decided to get into acting. On February 5, 2011, she died from heart failure at the age of 89.

After the show, several actors have continued to appear on television with performances on “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” “The Young and the Restless,” and “The Secret World of Alex Mack.” In 2014, the remaining cast and crew of the show held a 40 year anniversary event inside the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles, California, which also doubled as a fundraiser for Environmental Charter Middle School. Fans of “The Waltons” are happy to know that the entire show and all of its accompanying TV films are available on DVD right now. It’s also available to stream over on Amazon Video.


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