Publicity photo of Ralph Waite (John Walton, S...

Not so long ago, prime time television was all about life in simpler times on a very special mountain.

For my birthday week, I’m choosing the names – and today’s Baby Name of the Day is Walton.


Walter is a family name on my side, but I didn’t love it as a given name.  While name-surfing years ago, I stumbled on Walton.  And it seemed like the perfect update.

One complication: the names are not actually related.  Walter is Germanic.  Walton is a place name, originally from the Old English walh – foreigner, or possibly weald – forest, or waell  spring, stream.

But there are lots of other reasons to love Walton.

While some might dismiss him as a nouveau surname name, Walton qualifies as a revival: from the 1880s into the 1950s, you’d find him in the US Top 1000 most years.

Nowadays, he’s mostly forgotten, ranging between eight newborn Waltons in 2010 and 29 in 2003.  28 newborn boys were named Walton in 2013 – that’s pretty rare.

Still, Walton is very much on trend.  Surname names are having a moment, and there are some great options that start with W.  Two-syllable, ends-with-n names have become our go-tos for boy names, this generation’s answer to Robert and John.  Plus, if you worry about Walter being shortened to Wally, there’s something about Walton that makes him less likely to be abbreviated.

Now, about that mountain.

Earl Hamner, Jr. wrote a book called Spencer’s Mountain, loosely based on his own childhood, in 1961.  It became a film starring Henry Fonda in 1963.

Less than a decade later, there was interest in adapting the story for television – only Warner Brothers owned the movie, and CBS was creating the television series.  So Spencer became Walton, and eldest son Clay became John.

The series debuted in 1971 as a television movie called The Homecoming: A Christmas Story and by Fall 1972, it had started the first of nine successful seasons.  The show starts in the Great Depression and runs into World War II.  The movie covered some grittier topics, like alcoholism, but the television show stuck to gentler topics.

Even though the series has been off the air for decades, it still lends Walton a humble, homespun vibe.

Of course, there are tons of people sharing the surname:

  • Actor David is currently starring as Will on About a Boy – and he’s the dad of Cecilia Delphine and Louis Augustus with wife Majandra Delfino.
  • You might think of the sextuplets born in 1983 – Hannah, Luci, Sarah, Kate, Jennie, and Ruth.
  • I love the name of Australian aviation pioneer Nancy Bird Walton.
  • This one might be my favorite reference – the given name of Indiana Jones is Henry Walton Jones.

But it’s hard to escape another association: the family of Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart.  Whether you’re a big fan of low prices or have another association for the name, the controversies surrounding the mega-retailer are enough to taint Walton for many a parent.

Still, Walton has a sort of homespun charm.  He’s a little bit preppy, but not one bit pretentious.  If you’re looking for an unexpected boys’ name that will be instantly familiar, Walton is one to consider.

What do you think of Walton?  Do you like him better than Walter?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I like Walter better than Walton, but not by much. They’re both great names. I also really like Weston. Walt and Tony both work as nns for Walton, if one wants to stay away from Wally.

  2. It reminds me of Dalton… but the nickname of Walt seems friendlier than Dalt. This may be a fantastic option for parents whose surname ends with the ‘er’ sound and don’t want their son’s name to sound sing-song-y.
    And, yeah, the Indiana Jones connection is the ultimate!

  3. Walton is a nice name; I like it better than Walter. The only Walton I know of is the actor Walton Goggins from the TV show Justified.

  4. Happy birthday week, Abby! I loved Walter for years, but a family friend and Walter White have sort of dominated the name’s image. It’s nice to hear a more obscure alternative with lots of the same appeal!

  5. Happy Birthday Week!

    Walton is definitely wearable and I think John Boy and family. I slightly prefer Walton over Walter.