Jackson Gibbs is one of the oldest recurring characters in “NCIS” and is the father of the main protagonist Leroy Gibbs. The character is played by Ralph Waite, although producer Charles Floyd Johnson revealed in an interview with the Television Academy that the role almost went to “The Great Escape” star James Garner. Appearing in eight episodes, Gibbs made his debut in “Heartland” and continued to be mentioned by his son throughout future episodes.
Gibbs is no stranger to conflict, having fought in World War II as a pilot and then almost being killed by a member of the Reynosa cartel. Fortunately, he was able to fight off his attackers and escape without coming to harm. Despite being estranged when the show starts, both Jackson and Leroy begin to reconcile and develop a closer relationship. He dies during the Season 11 episode “Honor Thy Father,” having had a serious stroke at home. Leroy, LJ Moore (Billy Dee Williams), and many NCIS team members attend his funeral as a mark of honor.