Goodnight, John-Boy. Earl Hamner Jr. creator of The Waltons TV series and real-life counterpart to the John-Boy Walton (Richard Thomas) character has died at the age of 92. Premiering September 14, 1972, the series ran nine seasons before being cancelled by CBS. The TV series finale episode, “The Revel” aired June 1, 1991. It was followed up by several Waltons TV movies.
The Waltons was based on the Hamners’ life in Schuyler, Virginia, and the main characters were inspired by the creator’s family members. The cast of The Waltons includes: Thomas, Ralph Waite, Michael Learned, Ellen Corby, Will Geer, Judy Norton, Jon Walmsley, Mary Beth McDonough, Eric Scott, David W. Harper, Kami Cotler, Joe Conley, Ronnie Claire Edwards, Mary Jackson, and Helen Kleeb. Hamner narrated nearly every episode of the series.
Hamner’s novel, Spencer’s Mountain inspired the 1963 feature film of the same name, starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara. The 1971 TV movie, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, which served as a pilot for The Waltons TV show, was based on Spencer’s Mountain, as well.
Hamner also created the long-running Falcon Crest TV series. That primetime soap ran for nine seasons on CBS, but Hamner left after the fifth. Jane Wyman and Robert Foxworth starred. The cast also included Lorenzo Lamas, Chao Li Chi, David Selby, Susan Sullivan, Margaret Ladd, Ana Alicia, William R. Moses, and Abby Dalton.
Hamner created the Apple’s Way TV series, which ran on CBS for two seasons totaling 28 episodes, before its cancellation in 1975. He also created the Morningstar/Eveningstar TV series, which was canceled in 1986, after seven episodes. Early in his career, he wrote several episodes of The Twilight Zone, Gentle Ben, and Nanny and the Professor.
Born Earl Henry Hamner, Jr., on July 10, 1923, Mr. Hamner was the eldest of eight children born to Doris Marion (née Giannini) and Earl Henry Hamner, Sr. After serving in the US Army during World War II, Hamner earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree for his major in broadcasting, from the College of Music of the University of Cincinnati, in 1948.
In the 1950s while working as an NBC television writer, Hamner met Jane Martin, an editor at Harper’s Bazaar. The two were married on October 16, 1954. Their son Scott was born in 1956. A daughter, Caroline, followed in 1958.
Hamner’s books include Fifty Roads to Town, Spencer’s Mountain, Murder in Tinseltown, You Can’t Get There from Here, The Homecoming, Lassi: A Christmas Story, Goodnight John-Boy, The Avocado Drive Zoo, and Generous Women.
His son, Scott announced Hamner’s passing on his Facebook page.
We invite you to share your memories of Earl Hamner, Jr. and his works, below.
I still love Earl telling the storyline…love hearing his voice. I still enjoy watching episodes of Walton’s Mountain. I just watched Spencer’s Mountain last week and was transported in time to my teens when I first fell in love with the movie. Rest in peace my friend, Earl. You made many people smile as they watched your creations….Thank you for sharing your life and family with all of us. You are dearly missed…
I was 10 years old when the Waltons began on television. My mother and I would watch it together. My mother was a little girl during that depression era in North Carolina and she had a very similar upbringing. She would have been about Elizabeth’s age. I still love watching the DVDs because it reminds me of my mom and what she may have been like and what her life may have been like when she was a little girl. It’s such a warm family friendly show. I remember an article that Mr. Hamner wrote where he was talking about… Read more »
Oh my heart. Thank you, Michelle. Thanks for reading, writing, and your comment. I was but a baby when The Waltons TV show premiered. Still it was a big part of my life, but nothing like what you have shared, above.
I had the great fortune of knowing Earl Hamner personally; have visited his home many times in my early teens; what a fun & loving family. Would go to their house after church some Sundays; no matter how many showed up, Mrs. Hamner always had room for several more at her table !! Great memories & Good Night John Boy !! Anne Walton Hawkes
What a lovely story, Anne. Thank you for sharing it with us, and for your comment.