Ep.4 - The Baptism

  Original Airdate: October 14, 1976
Writer: Andy White
Director: Ralph Waite



The Baptist Church holds its annual Revival Meeting which causes friction between John and Olivia.

Jim-Bob finds a peacock and names him Rover.


  "We were a religious people on Walton's Mountain, the church was the center of our social as well as our spiritual lives. Each year there would come a great religious revival when each of us would be called upon to examine our conscience and to receive salvation. It was a time of joyous reunion, of intense religious fervor and was looked forward to with great anticipation by everyone, except my father."



Reverend Fordwich arrives at Ike Godsey's store to make an important phone cal. He has arranged for Ezekiel L. Henshaw, a reputed preacher, to perform the sermon at their annual Revival meeting. John Walton listens from a distance as he loads supplies into his truck. The Reverend invites John to come out to the meeting but John wishes him better look with the other lost sheep.

Mary Ellen comes home from a break at Nursing School. At dinner the discussion focuses on the revival meeting and Olivia’s desire to see her remaining children baptized at the meeting. John says that they can each choose in their own good time. Olivia and John have never agreed on the topic. John is not one to put on a suit and attend a church service.

The Reverend greets Ezekiel Henshaw at the bus station who wants to immediately make his mark on the community by confronting the sinners gathered at The Dew Drop Inn. When they arrive Rev. Fordwich sees Ben who is waiting to go coon hunting with Yancy who stopped in to see Sissy and quench his thirst. He admonishes Ben and sends him home to report his behavior to his parents. Yancy brings him home and Rams into the chicken coop. When Ben’s mother learns that where Ben has been she demands that he attend the baptism ceremony.

Olivia witnesses to John hoping that he will reconsider his choice to be baptized. A thunderstorm arrives sending John running out to cover the lumber with a tarp so that he will still be able to cut it in the morning. A bolt of lightning strikes near him causing John to lose consciousness. He wakes up on the couch surrounded by his concerned family. He sends them all to bed stating that he is just fine. He concedes that since the wood is now wet he will go to the sermon in the morning.

At the church service Rev. Henshaw delivers a hellfire and brimstone sermon. Corabeth and Mary Ellen go up to the pulpit to be blessed and accept Jesus. Ben feels the guilt of being discovered at the Dew Drop Inn and pledges his soul at the front. and Yancy Tucker takes refuge from the rain in the church. He hears the call and joins Ben as well. The Reverend turns his gaze towards John and becomes even more heated. John gets up to his feet but instead of going to the front his exits out the back. Olivia goes after him. John says he will not be yelled at. Olivia replies that he is fighting for his soul but John says that he will do his own fighting.

The baptism is held at Drucilla’s Pond. Corabeth is dunked while members of the church community. Yancy goes next and even Ben makes the decision to be baptized. Emily Baldwin asks her sister Mamie if they were baptized and she says of course they were but not like that, they were sprinkled instead.

Later after the service Olivia talks to John. He says that he doesn't see the point of being yelled at and thrown in the water. He just figures all it will do is get him wet. Olivia believes that he is a good man and that God must see him that way too. She then suggest that maybe he will reconsider being baptized next year. He laughs at how she'll never give up.

Secondary Story:


Jim-Bob is busy collecting parts for the car he is building. He comes across a peacock that is resting in a tree. He takes it home and keeps it hidden from the family in the barn.

When the family hears the wild call it makes they hurry to the barn to discover that he is keeoing it locked inside. He wants to see it fly. John-Boy puts an ad in his paper to locate the rightfull owner. He receives word from the owner who claims that the peacock is a free spirit that like to roost in trees and doesn't like to be cooped up. He also states that Jim-Bob can keep him if the peacock decides to stay. John-Boy encourages Jim-Bob to take “Rover” outside and let it choose it's home and the peacock flies up into the treehouse.


  "Each year revival time would come and go. My father never was baptised, but that did not keep him from worshiping his God as he saw fit, and being, at least to his friends and to his family, the most godly of men."

Episode Notes & Interesting Facts:

  • Jim-Bob reasserts his desire to be known as James Robert.
  • An interesting episode for Ralph Waite to direct as he was an ordained minister who had considered a career in the clergy. He officiated the wedding of Jon Walmsley and Lisa Harrison.
  • This is an interesting episode for actors Ralph Waite and Judy Norton-Taylor. Ralph directed the episode and was in fact an ordained minister despite playing the role of a non-religious character. Judy was in fact a practising member of the Church of Scientology. Many of the other child actors including Kami Cotler and Eric Scott were raised Jewish and had no understanding about the customs of the Baptist faith and Earl Hamner would often have to guide them on set as to how to behave in the church service.
  • Olivia claims that she and John have been married for 22 years.
  • This episodes features a complicated 2 minute shot at the dinner table that starts with the family saying grace and then continues to follow a dish of food as it is passed around the table and then the camera dollies 360 degrees around the table following each member of the family as they converse and eat with each other and then ends at John at the head of the table.

Additional Cast:



Guest star: John Karlen (Reverend Ezekiel Henshaw) with: Joe Conley (Ike Godsey), Ronnie Claire Edwards (Corabeth Godsey), Mary Jackson (Miss Emily), Helen Kleeb (Miss Mamie), John Ritter (Reverend Fordwick), Cissy Wellman (Sissy Walker)


Music from this episode:

The church choir sings "Stand Up For Jesus"
The choir sing "Shall We Gather at the River"
The choir sings a hymn at the river Baptism



Promo Images


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