Richard Thomas was the lead on The Waltons until season 5. He portrayed John-Boy Walton in the CBS drama.

It was a career-defining role for him. He landed the job when he was a junior at Columbia College studying English and left his studies to commit to the role full-time.

So, when Thomas abruptly left the role after just five seasons, everybody was left with a question about why he did so.

Why Did Richard Thomas Leave The Waltons?

Before we get to the why let's address the when. For those of you wondering "when did Richard Thomas leave The Waltons?" the answer is 1978.

After playing the show's lead character for 124 episodes in five seasons between 1972 and 1978, he left the show.

As for why he left, Thomas has talked about his decision to part ways with the show on several occasions.

He had a contract for five years with the showrunners. And after the paperwork ran its course, he did not renew the contract.

Richard Thomas as John-Boy Walton on 'The Waltons.'

Richard Thomas as John-Boy Walton on The Waltons. (Photo: Twitter)

The first place where his decision to leave the show is discussed is on a site about The Waltons. A page discussing Thomas and Earl Hamner's ties with the show mentions that Thomas left the show to "pursue other interests."

No other reason is given for his departure.

The actor would later confirm this in an interview with the Television Academy.

During a sit-down with the academy, he talked about his decision to leave the show and how his cast members received that.

"In the infinite wisdom of a 26-year-old," he joked about the mindset talking about how he thought he did not need to do the show anymore.

Continuing with his answer, Thomas said there was no reason for him to leave other than because he was ready to go.

Everybody in the cast got along well, and the pay was good. Further, he loved the part and the show and had no personal issues with anyone.

Thomas did not even have another job offer when he left the show.

The only concern he had was how people would think about his character if he stayed any longer. He concluded that it was time to move on for him and John-Boy Walton.

He also did not want to be associated with the character for too long as that could create a different image of him.

Nobody could believe his decision. His agent, producers of the show, and he himself had a hard time coming to terms with what he had left behind.

"It might have been the stupidest thing I ever did in my life," Thomas quipped but said he did not regret it because it was his choice.

Richard Thomas's Role in The Waltons Remake

43 years after Thomas's departure from the beloved CBS drama, he got an offer to become a part of The Waltons family once more.

In 2021, he was asked to be a part of The Waltons: Homecoming, a TV movie.

Despite his initial reservations about the show being remade with a whole new, younger cast, he later realized that he needed to be "proud and happy" for the movie and the show were considered classics.

Before The Waltons, he was a part of The Waltons: A Christmas Story, which inspired the show.

For the remake, he was a narrator. The movie came out on The CW on November 28, 2021.

Thomas is still acting on big projects. He starred on the hit show Ozark in 2022 and has appeared on three episodes as Nathan Davis as of this writing.