Beloved television actor and singer Andy Griffith passed away earlier today (7/3) at his home in Dare County, NC. He was 86. The news was confirmed to North Carolina’s WITN News by Griffith’s friend, UNC President Bill Friday.
Known for his down-to-earth leading roles in The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968) and Matlock (1986-1995), Griffith became a symbol of small town America as Sheriff Andy Taylor. Also a talented vocalist and musician, Griffith recorded several country and gospel albums throughout his lengthy career. In 2005, Griffith was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.
Andrew Samuel Griffith was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina, and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Griffith was originally studying to be a preacher, but changed his major to music. Following graduation, he taught high school English before launching his entertainment career.
His first forays into entertainment were comedic monologues, including “What it Was, Was Football” which charted in 1954. He landed a role in the teleplay No Time For Sergeants in 1955, and made his film debut as a darker, less wholesome character in A Face in the Crowd (1957).
The Andy Griffith Show began airing on CBS in 1960, when the Sheriff Andy Taylor character was spun off from Make Room For Daddy. The highly successful show set in fictionalized Mayberry, NC, ran eight years, earning multiple Emmy Awards for the comedic performances of Griffith’s co-star Don Knotts. Griffith later found success in 1986 with the legal drama Matlock, in which he starred as a country lawyer with a knack for winning his cases.
In addition to his humorous monologues, Griffith also recorded an album of country and gospel songs while The Andy Griffith Show was in production, which included a version of the show’s iconic theme song “The Fishin’ Hole.” He later recorded several albums of hymns for Sparrow Records, including the successful 1996 release I Love To Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns which won a Grammy Award for Best Southern Gospel Album. In 2003, Griffith recorded The Christmas Guest with producer Marty Stuart. In 2008, he appeared in Brad Paisley’s video for “Waitin’ On a Woman.”
Turner Classic Movies will pay tribute to Griffith’s career by showing four of his films on July 18. Starting at 7 pm CT, TCM will show A Face In The Crowd, No Time For Sargeants, Hearts of the West, and Onionhead.