My name is 'Dr.' Earl

The indefatigable creator of The Waltons television series has just added another feather to his cap. Make that cap and gown. Schuyler native Earl Hamner was presented an honorary doctorate by his alma mater, the University of Cincinnati, at its June 14 commencement, where he was the speaker.

"You know, my head has swollen to the size of a watermelon, and I go around insisting people call me 'doctor,'" joshes Hamner in a phone call from Studio City, CA, where he still goes to his office every day. Every day? "I'm 85, and I can't stop," he says.

Hamner attended the school when it was the Cincinnati College of Music and was in the first graduating class to get a broadcasting degree in 1948. He's now an honorary doctor of performing arts, academic tribute to the wide contribution he's made to American culture.

Best known for making "Good night, John Boy" a national catch phrase, Hamner has written for television and film his entire adult life, including sci-fi scripts for The Twilight Zone. He produced the steamy 1980s series Falcon Crest and has written best-selling books such as Spencer's Mountain and The Homecoming. More than a quarter century after the last episode of The Waltons aired in 1981, the series still lives on in syndication.

So what did Dr. Hamner advise the class of 2008? "I didn't really tell them any advice," he says, "but I did reassure them that they're in pretty good shape."

Hamner, who turns 85 on July 10 and was the subject of a 2005 biography, Earl Hamner: From Walton's Mountain to Tomorrow, says he's working on a book of short stories, and he has plans to be in Virginia in October for a reading at Hollins University.
– Photo courtesy the University of Cincinnati