A beloved TV legend has died at the age of 86. Andy Griffith, best know for his roles on The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock, passed this morning around 7am at his home in Dare County, North Carolina. Close friend and former University of North Carolina President Bill Friday confirmed the death.
Born in Mount Airy, North Carolina (supposedly the inspiration for the fictional town of Mayberry), Griffith began acting while in grade school. He attended UNC in Chapel Hill, played roles in several student operettas and graduated with a bachelor degree in music. He taught English for a few years and began to write and perform monologues, giving voice to rural backwoods characters. That led to a monologue record release which became number nine on the charts in 1954.
In 1955, he starred in a a one-hour teleplay version of No Time for Sergeants — the tale of a good-natured and over-sized country boy who joins the Air Force. That became a full-length Broadway play (where he met future co-star Don Knotts) and a feature film. Griffith followed that up with the 1957 musical, Destry Rides Again.
That led to Griffith playing a country sheriff in a backdoor pilot episode of Make Room for Daddy starring Danny Thomas. The Andy Griffith Show debuted in 1960 and was a big hit for CBS. During its eight year run, it was always in the top seven shows for the year. Griffith opted to leave to pursue movie projects and the series was renamed Mayberry RFD and ran for three more successful seasons. It was #15 when it was cancelled by CBS as part of the infamous “rural purge.”
Griffith went on to star in several movies and less-successful television series such as Headmaster (1970), The New Andy Griffith Show (1971), Adams of Eagle Lake (1975) Salvage 1 (1979), and The Yeagers (1980). He then found another hit in Matlock for NBC. Playing a country lawyer from Atlanta, the Matlock series ran from 1986 until 1995.
He continued to act in films and television but his workload tapered off as the years went by. He became active in politics, recording endorsements for different Democratic candidates. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2005. Most recently, Griffith appeared in ads for Medicare.
Griffith is survived by his third wife, Cindi Knight, whom he married in 1983, and an adopted daughter from his first marriage. An adopted son died in 1996.
What do you think? How do you best remember Andy Griffith and his long career?