This Is What Happened to John-Boy, One of the Most Popular Characters on 'The Waltons'

Leila Kozma - Author

Oct. 1 2020, Updated 5:28 p.m. ET

what happened to john boy walton
Source: Getty

The last-ever episode of The Waltons aired on CBS June 4, 1981, leaving many fans who've grown to love the show during its nine-season run on the channel devastated. 

Covering the period between the Great Depression and World War II, the drama told the story of John Walton Sr. and his family from the perspective of his oldest son, ambitious journalist John-Boy

Fortunately for fans, the show now airs on Hallmark. 

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John-Boy's character was loosely based on Earl Hamner Jr., the creator of 'The Waltons.'

The Waltons is based on the 1961 autobiographical novel by Earl Hamner Jr., Spencer's Mountain, which offers a rare glimpse into the day-to-day life of a West Virginian family. 

The TV series revolves around a family of nine living on Walton's Mountain. While the head of the family, John Walton Sr., makes a living by operating a nearby sawmill, the children have to look for their own adventures, entering pig competitions, attending fairs, and the like.

what happened to john boy walton
Source: Getty
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As the oldest son of the family, John-Boy has more responsibilities than the other kids. Determined to become a journalist or a writer, he leaves the family nest and enrolls at Boatwright University. During his time at the school, he makes ends meet as a librarian, and soon enough, he also acquires a printing press to publish his own title, The Blue Ridge Chronicle

His career ambitions are cut short by World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, John-Boy, like the other men in the family, has to enroll in the military. He eventually becomes a war correspondent, writing for the Stars and Stripes. For a while, some fear that he has vanished, but he returns to Walton's Mountain in the end. 

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In the last season of the show, John-Boy sets out to New York to discuss his book draft with an editor. Unfortunately, his manuscript is turned down, leading him to make his way back to his family.  

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Richard Thomas, the actor originally cast in John-Boy's role, left 'The Waltons' in 1978.

Richard Thomas portrayed John-Boy's character between Seasons 1 and 6. While it's uncertain why the actor decided to quit, it's understood that he remained on good terms with the cast and the creators alike. It seems that, most likely, Richard opted to leave to pursue other interests, as actors who have been in one role for a long time, like John-Boy, often do.

"It was a wonderful family. It was a family feeling ... we were all very compatible, we all had a very good time, lot of love, lot of fun, lot of laughter ... over the years we've stayed in touch and ... there's a very strong bond that's never gone away," Richard explained in a previous interview with Antenna TV.

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Richard went on to have roles in Roots, It, The Adventures of Swiss Family Robinson, Just Cause, The Americans, and, most recently, The Comey Rule. He also reprised his role as John-Boy in multiple The Waltons movie spinoffs in the '90s. 

Robert Wightman took over John-Boy's role in a Season 8 episode, titled "The Waiting," and he continued to play the popular character up until the last-ever episode of the TV show, "The Revel." Afterward, the actor went on to appear in movies like Impulse and Stepfather III, and TV shows like On Wings of Eagles. 

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