Only a day before The Fourth of July, the U.S.A. lost one of its most beloved icons: Andy Griffith. Star of the famous The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock, he was an actor and musician respected by millions for his great comedic timing and skill on a six-string.
Born June 1st, 1926 in the small town of Mount Airy, North Carolina to a poor family, a young Andy lived with relatives – sometimes sleeping in cribs, other times in drawers – until the age of three. It was then that his father, working as a carpenter, was able to buy his son and wife a home. Andy Griffith studied drama in high school, and, in college, received a BA in music. After briefly considering a path as a preacher, his career in comedy began with him working as a monologist, performing such pieces as “What It Was, Was Football”, which sold well for The Colonial Label in Raleigh, NC.
Eventually, he moved on to television and, later, the big screen. He starred in No Time for Sergeants (1958) with future co-star Don Knotts, and A Face in the Crowd (1957). However, Andy got his big break when working with producer Sheldon Leonard on Make Room for Daddy. His character – a small-town sheriff – stopped Danny Thomas’ protagonist for speeding in an episode, which served as a pilot for The Andy Griffith Show. This show became his greatest legacy, and he is still known as Sheriff Andy Taylor to fans this day.
Running from 1960 to 1968, the show starred Taylor, his Aunt Bee, and son Opie, in the town of Mayberry, solving crimes and resolving neighborhood conflicts while still having time to pick some tunes and eat apple pie. The wholesome family show, produced by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball’s Desilu Studios, was one of the most popular of the decade and launched the career of actor and director Ron Howard. From 1985-1995, Andy returned for his second most popular series, Matlock, a legal drama, which he began after recovering from Gullain-Barré Syndrome.
He retained his friendship with Ron Howard and Don Knotts throughout his entire life and appeared briefly in episodes of TAGS sequel, Mayberry R.F.D, as well as the made-for-TV film Return to Mayberry, and two reunion shows. He later appeared in multiple films, including one with country music legend Johnny Cash, and as a guest star in popular television shows, including Hawaii Five-O, The Bionic Woman, and Dawson’s Creek.
While not as well known as his acting career, Andy Griffith was also a musician, performing repeatedly on television and in film. He also released gospel tunes with Sparrow Records, and – at one point – recorded “The Fishin’ Hole”, which set words to the famous TAGS theme: regularly a simple melody performed by whistling. In 2008, he was invited by Brad Paisley to star in his music video for the hit single, “Waitin’ On a Woman.”
Despite having never received an award for his work in either film or television, Andy Griffith was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame and the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame, alongside famous artists such as Barbara Mandrell and Loretta Lynn. One guitar company, C.F. Martin & Company, made an Andy Griffith model in 2004, and his hometown of Mount Airy honors their hero with the annual Mayberry Days. He was also presented the Presidential Award of Freedom in 2005 by former President George W. Bush.
Andy Griffith passed away on June 3rd, 2012 at 7AM at his home in Dare County, NC on Roanoke Island. We at Her Campus Chatham are sure that he is loved and will be loved by all his current fans and those for generations to come. He’s a true and beloved American icon.
R.I.P, Andy. We all miss Mayberry…