George Lindsey of “Andy Griffith” and “Hee Haw” Passes

George Lindsey, 1965. Photo: Gabi Rona (MPTV)

George Lindsey, the actor best known as gas station mechanic “Goober Pyle” on The Andy Griffith Show and from appearances on Hee Haw, died at 12:05 am on Sun., May 6 after a brief illness. He was 83.

Born in Fairfield, AL, on Dec. 17, 1928, George Smith Lindsey was the only child of Alice Smith Lindsey and George Ross Lindsey.

His stompin’ grounds included his Aunt Ethel’s gas station, where mechanics wore felt caps to keep the grease and oil from dripping into their hair. Those caps inspired his trademark “beanie” worn by Goober.

He graduated from Florence State Teachers College (now the University of North Alabama) in 1952, with a scholarship earned by becoming starting quarterback.

Lindsey joined the Air Force, serving mostly at Pinecastle Air Force Base, responsible for organizing plays and entertainment for servicemen. He also worked at nearby Rollins College in Winter Haven where he met Joyanne Herbert. They were married in 1955.

Lindsey was discharged and accepted at the American Theater Wing in NYC with the help of GI Bill funds. His work as a comedian and actor in nightclubs eventually led to a contract with the William Morris Agency.

The Lindsey family moved to Hollywood where he found work in The Rifleman and Gunsmoke, The Real McCoys, The Twilight Zone, several Disney productions and three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Lindsey auditioned for the role of “Gomer Pyle” on the Andy Griffith Show, but lost it to Jim Nabors in 1962. He later landed the role of “Goober,” “Gomer’s” cousin for four seasons on Andy Griffith and three on the sequel series, Mayberry R.F.D.

He spent two decades as a regular on the syndicated Hee Haw where he dressed as Goober but was usually addressed as George. Lindsey separated from his wife and made Nashville his permanent home in the early 1990s. He embraced the Goober character even wearing the “Goober Suit” costume for stand-up shows.

In addition to co-founding the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival at his alma mater, Lindsey was involved in the Country single and video “Find Me a Man Like Goober” in 2007, and Larry the Cable Guy’s “Hula -Palooza Christmas Luau” in 2009.

(L-R): George Lindsey, Ralph Emery, Ray Stevens at Stevens' CD release party in Nashville on Feb 28, 2012

He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters UNA in 1992, inducted into the University’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011, and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1983 due to his work with the Special Olympics. The George Lindsey Theater was dedicated this year on the UNA campus where his career memorabilia is on display. He received the Minnie Pearl Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. In 2004, Lindsey shared the TV Land Legend Award with other members of the “Griffith” cast and crew.

Lindsey often commented that he was torn about what he wanted his tombstone to say. One choice goes for the joke: “I told you I was sick.” The other goes for the heart: “I hope I made you laugh.”

“George Lindsey was my friend,” said Andy Griffith. “I had great respect for his talent and his human spirit. Our last conversation was a few days ago [by telephone]. We would talk about our health, how much we missed our friends who passed before us and usually about something funny. 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.’”

George Lindsey is survived by son George Lindsey, Jr., of Woodland Hills, CA.; daughter Camden Jo Lindsey Gardner, and her family of Valencia, CA.; cousin, Rebecca Weber of Gadsden, AL.; and companion, Anne Wilson of Nashville.

Visitation and funeral arrangements are forthcoming. Arrangements are being handled by Marshall Donnelly Combs Funeral Home of Nashville.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Lindsey’s memory may be made to: Special Olympics Alabama, 880 South Court Street, Montgomery, AL 36104; UNA Foundation, with a designation to the George Lindsey Film and Digital Media Scholarship, UNA Box 5113, Florence, AL 35632; or another charity of the donor’s choice.

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