Andy Griffith, an actor best-known for his leading role in The Andy Griffith Show, died Tuesday morning (July 3) at his home in Dare County, N.C. He was 86.
Griffith starred as Sheriff Andy Taylor in the CBS show that ran from 1960 to 1968. The role became his career signature, and he produced and appeared in several reunion specials with co-stars such as Don Knotts and Ron Howard. He also brought bluegrass music into millions of homes through his television show by creating roles for the Dillards, a band that appeared on the series as the Darling family.
Another of his iconic TV roles came from the title role of Matlock, which aired on network television from 1986 to 1995. Griffith received an Emmy nomination for his role in the 1991 TV movie, Murder in Texas.
Prior to his TV career, Griffith found acclaim for his leading role in director Elia Kazan’s 1957 film, A Face in the Crowd. He also earned a Tony nomination in 1955 for his work on the Broadway play, No Time for Sergeants. In 1960 he received another Tony nod for his role in Destry Rides Again.
As a Capitol recording artist, Griffith enjoyed widespread success with his 1958 comedy album, Just for Laughs, which included two of his most famous routines, “What It Was, Was Football” and “Romeo & Juliet.” The following year, he released Andy Griffith Shouts the Blues and Old Timey Songs.
Although he occasionally sang in casual settings on his television show, he gained acclaim in the ’90s with a series of gospel albums, including Somebody Bigger Than You and I and Just as I Am: 30 Favorite Old Time Hymns. He won a 1996 Grammy for I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns. His 2003 holiday album, The Christmas Guest, was produced by Marty Stuart.
Born in Mount Airy, N.C., Griffith discovered his love for drama at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1944. He graduated from there with a degree in music in 1949. After teaching high school for three years, he teamed with his first wife, Barbara, to form a traveling entertainment duo with monologues, singing and dancing. By 1954, Griffith and his wife had moved to New York City. He delivered a monologue on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1954. In 1959 and 1960, he served as a regular on The Steve Allen Show, along with Knotts.
Mt. Airy became the inspiration for Mayberry, the small town in The Andy Griffith Show. There is now a museum in Mt. Airy honoring Griffith’s achievements.
Among his many honors, Griffith accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.View photos of Andy Griffith.