Earl Hamner Jr., the versatile and prolific writer who drew upon his Depression-era upbringing in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to create one of television’s most beloved family shows, “The Waltons,” has died. He was 92.
Hamner died in Los Angeles and had recently been battling pneumonia, said Ray Castro Jr., a friend of Hamner’s who produced a documentary, “Earl Hamner Storyteller,” about the writer. Castro said he learned about Hamner’s death from the writer’s daughter, Caroline. A Facebook post by Hamner’s son, Scott, stated his father died surrounded by family at Cedars Sinai Hospital while John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” was playing.
Although best remembered for “The Waltons,” which aired for nine seasons and won more than a dozen Emmys, that show barely scratched the surface of Hamner’s literary accomplishments.
He was a best-selling novelist (“Spencer’s Mountain”), the author of eight episodes of the classic 1960s TV show “The Twilight Zone” and, as a screenwriter, adapted the popular children’s tale “Charlotte’s Web,” into a hit 2006 film. He also created the popular, long-running TV drama “Falcon Crest” and wrote for such other TV shows as “Wagon Train,” ”Gentle Ben” and “The Wild Thornberrys.”
Castro said Hamner remained busy in recent years, and had recently sold a play.
“He was a great Southern gentleman, a great friend, a great father,” Castro said. “He was my mentor. America has truly lost a great icon.”
RIP, Earl Hamner, Jr.
When I was in high school, I worked in the business office of the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville. A young man named Jim Hamner worked in the adjoining office. He was probably 10 years plus older than I.
Jim Hamner was so proud of his older brother, Earl Hamner Jr. who had just achieved national acclaim for his best seller, Spencer’s Mountain. A movie had also been made of the book..
I lost touch with Jim as I moved on through life. However, I stumbled upon his obituary about 12 years ago. Jim had been the character model for Jim-Bob of the Waltons. He had remained in the area and had been quite active in overseeing the local Walton’s historian project in Schuyler.
I remembered Jim fondly and had spent a lot of time watching The Waltons. I felt like I knew the family through him. About 5 years ago I took keyboard in hand and wrote an email to Earl Hamner, Jr. telling him I had known his brother and what a nice man he had been. Earl wrote me back and we had a couple of very chatty home boy and girl exchanges.
Earl Hamner was a very gifted and talented writer. I feel a big hole in my heart today learning of his death. I might just have to drive down to Schuyler very soon and have my own little personal good bye with such a talented man.
Further reading : www.earlhamner.com