George “Goober” Lindsey, a longtime Hee Haw cast member who gained national fame in his role as Goober Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show, died early Sunday (May 6) in Nashville following a lengthy illness. He was 83.
Born and raised in Alabama, his interest in acting began as a teenager. He attended Florence State Teachers College on a football scholarship and was involved in theatrical productions on the campus. After graduating in 1952, he joined the Air Force and was stationed in Florida. Following his military service, he returned to Alabama and became a high school teacher and basketball coach near Huntsville.
He moved to New York City in the late ’50s and began taking classes at the American Theater Wing. He received small parts in local theaters before landing larger roles on Broadway which led to his move to Los Angeles.
Lindsey auditioned for the role of Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show, but the job went to Jim Nabors. However, he landed the role of Gomer’s cousin, Goober, in 1964 and remained on the show as a gas station mechanic until the series was canceled in 1968. He continued the role on the spin-off series, Mayberry R.F.D., which was canceled in 1971. Around the same time, Lindsey recorded Goober Sings, a comedy album that led to his 20-year tenure as a cast member on Hee Haw.
Lindsey’s comic character as Goober defined his fame, but he made guest appearances on numerous TV series, including M*A*S*H, The Rifleman, Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He also appeared in several films, including Take This Job and Shove It and Cannonball Run II, and enjoyed a successful career providing voices to an array of animated features, including Disney’s The Aristocats, The Rescuers and Robin Hood. His voiceover work is also featured in Starzinger, a series of animated feature films released in 2011.
As a humanitarian, he raised more than $1.7 million for the Alabama Special Olympics through his George Lindsey Celebrity Golf Tournament. He was also actively involved in the George Lindsey Film Festival and the George Lindsey Film and Digital Media Scholarship at the University of North Alabama in Florence.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Marshall Donnelly Combs Funeral Home in Nashville.