Andy Griffith, the beloved Sheriff Andy Taylor of TV’s iconic The Andy Griffith Show and dramatic defense attorney on Matlock, died at his North Carolina home Tuesday morning. He was 86.
A native of Mount Airy, N.C., Griffith originally wanted to be an opera singer, then a preacher, before turning to acting in college. In the late ’40s, he and his new bride, the former Barbara Edwards, set out with song-and-dance act that eventually evolved into his delivering folksy monologues on early TV variety shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show.
In 1954, Griffith’s star was launched when he starred as the bumpkin army draftee in Broadway’s No Time for Sergeants, and he repeated the role in the 1958 movie version, which also starred his later TV sidekick, Don Knotts.
The two achieved immortality playing Sheriff Andy and Deputy Barney Fife from 1960-68 on The Andy Griffith Show, which also helped launch actor (and later Oscar winning movie director) Ron Howard, as Andy’s son Opie. The show was set in Mayberry, and America lapped it up.
In May, when his costar George Lindsey (who played Goober Pyle) died, Griffith said: “Our last conversation was a few days ago. We would talk about our health, how much we missed our friends who passed before us and usually about something funny. I am happy to say that as we found ourselves in our 80s, we were not afraid to say, ‘I love you.’ That was the last thing George and I had to say to each other. ‘I love you.’ ”
Griffith also starred in another TV favorite, Matlock, playing cantankerous defense lawyer Ben Matlock, who had a knack for getting juries to acquit and witnesses to confess on the stand.
On the big screen, before his TV stardom, Griffith also starred in the searing look at a media personality, A Face in the Crowd.
Griffith was also a Grammy award-winning southern gospel singer, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush in 2005.
As folksy in person as he was on screen, Griffith was married three times. His first, to Edwards, ended in divorce in 1972. They had three children, two daughters and a son who died in 1966.
Griffith’s second marriage ended after five years, in 1981. He is survived by his third wife, Cindi.
Remembering Andy Griffith