Andy Samuel Griffith (June 1, 1926  – July 3, 2012) was an American actor, comedian, television producer, Southern gospel singer, and writer,[2] whose career spanned seven decades of music and television.

Known for his southern drawl, his characters with a folksy-friendly personality, and his gruff, gregarious voice, Griffith was a Tony Award nominee for two roles, and gained prominence in the starring role in director Elia Kazan's film A Face in the Crowd (1957) before he became better known for his television roles, playing the lead roles of Andy Taylor in the sitcom The Andy Griffith Show (1960–1968) and Ben Matlock in the legal drama Matlock (1986–1995).

Early life and education

Griffith was born on June 1, 1926 in Mount Airy, North Carolina, the only child of Carl Lee Griffith and his wife, Geneva (Nunn).[3] As a baby, Griffith lived with relatives until his parents could afford to buy a home. With neither a crib nor a bed, he slept in dresser drawers for several months. In 1929, when Griffith was three, his father began working as a helper or carpenter and purchased a home in Mount Airy's "blue-collar" south side.

Griffith grew up listening to music. By the time he entered school, he was well aware that he was from what many considered the "wrong side of the tracks". He was a shy student, but once he found a way to make his peers laugh, he began to come out of his shell and come into his own.

As a student at Mount Airy High School, Griffith cultivated an interest in the arts, and he participated in the school's drama program. A growing love of music, particularly swing, would change his life. Griffith was raised Baptist[4] and looked up to Ed Mickey, a minister at Grace Moravian Church, who led the brass band and taught him to sing and play the trombone. Mickey nurtured Griffith's talent throughout high school until graduation in 1944. Griffith was delighted when he was offered a role in The Lost Colony by Paul Green, a play about Roanoke Island still performed today. He performed as a cast member of the play for several years, playing a variety of roles, until he finally landed the role of Sir Walter Raleigh, the namesake of North Carolina's capital.

He attended the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1949. He began college studying to be a Moravian preacher, but he changed his major to music and became a part of the school's Carolina Playmakers. At UNC, he was president of the UNC chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, America's oldest fraternity for men in music.[5] He also played roles in several student operettas, including The Chimes of Normandy (1946), and Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers (1945), The Mikado (1948) and H.M.S. Pinafore (1949).[6]

After graduation, he taught music and drama for a few years at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, North Carolina,[7] where he taught, among others, Carl Kasell.[8] He also began to write.


From rising comedian to film star

Griffith's early career was as a monologist, delivering long stories such as What It Was, Was Football, which is told from the point of view of a naïve country preacher trying to figure out what was going on in a football game.[9] The monologue was released as a single in 1953 on the Colonial Records label, and was a hit for Griffith, reaching number nine on the charts in 1954.[10]

Griffith starred in Ira Levin's one-hour teleplay version of No Time for Sergeants (March 1955) — a story about a country boy in the United States Air Force — on The United States Steel Hour, a television anthology series. He expanded that role in Ira Levin's full-length theatrical version of the same name (October 1955) on Broadway in New York City.[11] The role earned him a "Distinguished Supporting or Featured Dramatic Actor" nomination at the 1956 Tony Awards, losing to Ed Begley. He did win the 1956 Theatre World Award, however, a prize given for debut roles on Broadway. "Mr. Griffith does not have to condescend to Will Stockdale" (his role in the play), wrote Brooks Atkinson in The New York Times. "All he has to do is walk on the stage and look the audience straight in the face. If the armed forces cannot cope with Will Stockdale, neither can the audience resist Andy Griffith."[12]

Griffith later reprised his role for the film version (1958) of No Time for Sergeants; the film also featured Don Knotts, as a corporal in charge of manual-dexterity tests, marking the beginning of a lifelong association between Griffith and Knotts. No Time for Sergeants is considered the direct inspiration for the later television situation comedy Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.[13]

His only other New York stage appearance was the titular role in the 1959 musical Destry Rides Again, co-starring Dolores Gray. The show, with a score by Harold Rome, ran for 472 performances and more than a year. Griffith was nominated for "Distinguished Musical Actor" at the 1960 Tony Awards, losing to Jackie Gleason.

He also portrayed a US Coast Guard sailor in the feature film Onionhead (1958); it was neither a critical nor a commercial success.

Dramatic role in A Face in the Crowd (1957)

Griffith with Lee Remick (l) and Patricia Neal (r) on the set of A Face in the Crowd (1957)

In 1957, Griffith made his film début starring in the film A Face in the Crowd. Although he plays a "country boy," this country boy is manipulative and power-hungry, a drifter who becomes a television host and uses his show as a gateway to political power. The film was directed by Elia Kazan and written by Budd Schulberg and co-stars Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau, Tony Franciosa, and Lee Remick (in her film début as well).

A 2005 DVD reissue of A Face in the Crowd includes a mini-documentary on the film, with comments from Schulberg and cast members Griffith, Franciosa, and Neal. In his interview, Griffith, revered for his wholesome image for decades, reveals a more complex side of himself. He recalls Kazan prepping him to shoot his first scene with Remick's teenaged baton twirler, who captivates Griffith's character on a trip to Arkansas. Griffith also expresses his belief that the film was far more popular and respected in more recent decades than it was when originally released.

Television roles

Early television roles

Griffith's first appearance on television was in 1955 in the one-hour teleplay of No Time for Sergeants on The United States Steel Hour. That was the first of two appearances on that series.

In 1960, Griffith appeared as a county sheriff (who was also a justice of the peace and the editor of the local newspaper) in an episode of Make Room for Daddy, starring Danny Thomas. This episode, in which Thomas's character is stopped for running a stop sign in a little town, served as a backdoor pilot for The Andy Griffith Show. Both shows were produced by Sheldon Leonard.

The Andy Griffith Show (1960–1968)

Andy Griffith and Julie Adams in 1962

Beginning in September 1960, Griffith starred as Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show for the CBS television network. The show took place in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina, where Taylor, a widower, was the sheriff and town sage. The show was filmed at Desilu Studios, with exteriors filmed at Forty Acres in Culver City, California.

From 1960 to 1965, the show co-starred character actor and comedian — and Griffith's longtime friend — Don Knotts in the role of Deputy Barney Fife, Taylor's best friend and comedy partner. He was also Taylor's cousin in the show at first, though later they dropped that cousin relationship and talked simply of knowing one another since boyhood. In the series premiere episode, in a conversation between the two, Fife calls Taylor "Cousin Andy", and Taylor calls Fife "Cousin Barney". The show also starred child actor Ron Howard (then known as Ronny Howard), who played Taylor's only child, Opie Taylor.

It was an immediate hit. Griffith never received a writing credit for the show, but he worked on the development of every script. Knotts was frequently lauded and won multiple Emmy Awards for his comedic performances (as did Frances Bavier in 1967), while Griffith was never nominated for an Emmy Award during the show's run.

Publicity photo with Lee Meriwether for The New Andy Griffith Show, 1971

In 1967, Griffith was under contract with CBS to do one more season of the show. However, he decided to quit the show to pursue a movie career and other projects. The series continued as Mayberry R.F.D., with Ken Berry starring as a widower farmer and many of the regular characters recurring, some regularly and some as guest appearances. Griffith served as executive producer (according to Griffith, he came in once a week to review the week's scripts and give input) and guest starred in five episodes (the pilot episode involved his marriage to Helen Crump).[14] He made final appearances as Taylor in the 1986 reunion television film, Return to Mayberry, and in two reunion specials in 1993[15] and 2003,[16] with strong ratings.[17]

Matlock (1986–1995)

After leaving his still-popular show in 1968, and starting his own production company (Andy Griffith Enterprises) in 1972, Griffith starred in less-successful television series such as Headmaster (1970), The New Andy Griffith Show (1971), Adams of Eagle Lake (1975), Salvage 1 (1979) and The Yeagers (1980).

After spending seven months in rehabilitation for leg paralysis from Guillain–Barré syndrome in 1983, Griffith returned to television as the title character, Ben Matlock, in the legal drama Matlock (1986–1995) on NBC and ABC. Matlock was a country lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, who was known for his Southern drawl and for always winning his cases. Matlock also starred unfamiliar, struggling actors (both of whom were childhood fans of Andy Griffith) Nancy Stafford as Michelle Thomas (1987–1992) and Clarence Gilyard, Jr. as Conrad McMasters (1989–1993). By the end of its first season it was a ratings powerhouse on Tuesday nights. Although the show was nominated for four Emmy Awards, Griffith once again was never nominated. He did, however, win a People's Choice Award in 1987 for his work as Matlock.[18]

Other television appearances

Griffith also made other character appearances through the years on Playhouse 90, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., The Mod Squad, Hawaii Five-O, The Doris Day Show, Here's Lucy, The Bionic Woman and Fantasy Island, among many others. He also reprised his role as Ben Matlock on Diagnosis: Murder in 1997, and his most recent guest-starring role was in 2001 in an episode of Dawson's Creek.

Films (including television films)

For most of the 1970s, Griffith starred or appeared in many television films, including The Strangers In 7A (1972), Go Ask Alice (1973), Winter Kill (1974) and Pray for the Wildcats (1974), which marked his first villainous role since A Face in the Crowd. Griffith appeared again as a villain in Savages (1974), a television film based on the novel Deathwatch (1972) by Robb White. Griffith received his only Primetime Emmy Award nomination as Outstanding Supporting Actor – Miniseries or a Movie for his role as the father of a murder victim in the television film Murder in Texas (1981) and won further acclaim for his role as a homicidal villain in the television film Murder in Coweta County (1983), co-starring music legend Johnny Cash as the sheriff. He also appeared in several television miniseries, including the television version of From Here to Eternity (1979), Roots: The Next Generations (1979), Centennial (1978), and the Watergate scandal-inspired Washington: Behind Closed Doors (1977), playing a former president loosely based on Lyndon B. Johnson.

Most of the television movies in which Griffith starred were also attempts to launch a new series. Winter Kill (1974) launched the short-lived Adams of Eagle Lake, which was canceled in 1975 after only two episodes. A year later, he starred as a New York City attorney for the DA's office in Street Killing, which also failed to launch a new show. Two television films for NBC in 1977, The Girl in the Empty Grave and Deadly Game, were attempts for Griffith to launch a new series featuring him as Police Chief Abel Marsh, a more hard-edged version of Andy Taylor; despite strong ratings, both were unsuccessful in leading to a new TV show.

While appearing in television films and guest roles on television series over the next 10 years, Griffith also appeared in two feature films, both of which flopped at the box office. He co-starred with Jeff Bridges as a crusty old 1930s western actor in the comedy Hearts of the West (1975), and he appeared alongside Tom Berenger as a gay villainous colonel and cattle baron in the Western comedy spoof Rustlers' Rhapsody (1985).

He also appeared as an attorney in the NBC miniseries Fatal Vision (1984), which is considered a precursor to his role in Matlock.

Griffith stunned many unfamiliar with his A Face in the Crowd work in the television film Crime of Innocence (1985), where he portrayed a callous judge who routinely sentenced juveniles to hard prison time. Also noteworthy in Griffith's darker roles was his character in Under the Influence (1986), a TV-movie where Griffith played an alcoholic, abusive patriarch. He further surprised audiences with his role as a dangerous and mysterious grandfather in the television film Gramps (1995) co-starring John Ritter. He also appeared as a comical villain in the spy movie spoof Spy Hard (1996) starring Leslie Nielsen. In the television film A Holiday Romance (1999), Griffith played the role of Jake Peterson. In the film Daddy and Them (2001), Griffith portrayed a patriarch of a dysfunctional southern family.

In the feature film Waitress (2007), Griffith played a crusty diner owner who takes a shine to Keri Russell's character. His last appearance was the leading role in the romantic comedy, independent film Play the Game (2009) as a lonely, widowed grandfather re-entering the dating world after a 60-year hiatus. The cast of Play the Game also included Rance Howard, Ron Howard's real-life father, who had made appearances in various supporting roles on The Andy Griffith Show, and Clint Howard, Ron's younger brother, who had the recurring role of Leon (the kid offering the ice cream cone or peanut butter sandwich) on The Andy Griffith Show.

Singing and recording career

Griffith sang as part of some of his acting roles, most notably in A Face in the Crowd and in many episodes of both The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock. In addition to his recordings of comic monologues in the 1950s, he made an album of upbeat country and gospel tunes during the run of The Andy Griffith Show, which included a version of the show's theme sung by Griffith under the title "The Fishin' Hole". In recent years, he recorded successful albums of classic Christian hymns for Sparrow Records. His most successful was the release I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns (1996), which was certified platinum by the RIAA.[19] The album won Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album at the 1997 Grammy Awards.[20]

Griffith appeared in country singer Brad Paisley's music video "Waitin' on a Woman" (2008).[21]

Name dispute

William Harold Fenrick of Platteville, Wisconsin, legally changed his name to Andrew Jackson Griffith and ran unsuccessfully for sheriff of Grant County in November 2006. Subsequently, actor Griffith filed a lawsuit against Griffith/Fenrick, asserting that he violated trademark, copyright, and privacy laws by changing his name for the "sole purpose of taking advantage of Griffith's fame in an attempt to gain votes." On May 4, 2007, US District Court Judge John C. Shabaz ruled that Griffith/Fenrick did not violate federal trademark law because he did not use the Griffith name in a commercial transaction but instead in order "to seek elective office, fundamental First Amendment protected speech."[22][23]


R. G. Armstrong

The longest association that Griffith had, began in 1945 with an unfamiliar actor named R. G. Armstrong. They met when Armstrong was one of Griffith's and his first wife's students at UNC, where Armstrong majored in drama. After graduating from college, Armstrong went on to become a versatile character actor while attending The Actors Studio in New York City.

In the 1960s, they were reunited in an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, with Armstrong playing a farmer who was the father of a tomboy. In the 1980s, Armstrong made a guest appearance in a two-part episode of Matlock, which was filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina, playing the role of a sheriff who introduces Matlock to a young, hotshot private investigator (played by an unknown Clarence Gilyard Jr.), whom Matlock hires at the end of the episode, after working on a case in Griffith's actual hometown. Griffith and Armstrong kept in contact.

Armstrong died on July 27, 2012, 24 days after Griffith's death.[24]

Don Knotts

Two icons on the set of "The Andy Griffith-Don Knotts-Jim Nabors Hour" variety special, which originally aired on October 7, 1965

Griffith's friendship with Don Knotts began in 1955, when they co-starred in the Broadway play No Time for Sergeants.[25] Several years later, Knotts had a regular role on The Andy Griffith Show for five seasons.[26] Knotts left the series in 1965,[27] but periodically returned for guest appearances.[28] He appeared in the pilot for Griffith's subsequent short-lived series, The New Andy Griffith Show,[29] and he had a recurring role on Matlock, from 1988 to 1992.[30]

They kept in contact until Knotts' death in early 2006. Griffith traveled from his Manteo, North Carolina, home to Los Angeles, to visit the terminally ill Knotts at Cedars-Sinai just before Knotts died of lung cancer.[31]

Dick Van Dyke

In one interview with Bill Cosby, Griffith described meeting another unfamiliar, young actor-comic, Dick Van Dyke, in 1954, while working in nightclubs in New York City. They later became best friends. Comic Danny Thomas gave Griffith an opportunity to star in a spin-off of Make Room for Daddy; that project became The Andy Griffith Show. The following year, Van Dyke got The Dick Van Dyke Show, another Thomas creation-production.

Years after, Griffith invited Van Dyke to appear in the first episode of Matlock; Van Dyke played a judge who committed murder. Eleven years later, Griffith was reunited with Van Dyke in a two-part episode of Diagnosis: Murder, in which Griffith reprised his role as Ben Matlock. The role was Griffith's last appearance before retiring.

Van Dyke remained in touch with Griffith until Griffith's death.

Jim Nabors

With his rich, baritone singing voice, Jim Nabors, the young, unfamiliar actor/singer had been discovered by Andy Griffith, after he was working at one of the clubs in Santa Monica, California. It was Griffith's persuasion to hire him to guest-star, before later becoming a regular on The Andy Griffith Show, as Gomer Pyle, as the town's bumbling mechanic. His appearances were so popular that it led to his friend's spin-off show, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., in which his character transformed himself from a mechanic to a teasable private in the Marine Corps.

His best friend's spin-off show was very popular for 5 seasons, on one of the episodes, Griffith made a guest appearance in which he had been told by his son Opie, that he was to join Gomer, in the Marines. When the show was canceled (the year after its parent show), he wanted to move on to something else, when he was specifically told not to, and that was when he was hosting The Jim Nabors Hour, where Andy Griffith was his 1st guest on the show, and on a few occasions, he was even reunited with Ronnie Schell and Frank Sutton, from Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Nabors's other show lasted 2 more seasons, that it still did good in the ratings. Consequently, his show had fallen victim, when in 1971, it was canceled, because of the infamous "Rural purge" that axed each and every CBS show that were extremely popular at that time, and Nabors was very disappointed by the show's cancelation.

After the cancelation of both of Nabors's shows, he embarked on his own singing career, continuing making more guest appearances on television, whilst frequently staying in touch with Griffith, until Griffith's death.

In 1994, while Nabors's best buddy was working on the legal drama, Matlock, Griffith in real-life was more concerned of Nabors's health, when he nearly died of Hepatitis B, who got it while his best friend was traveling to India, he shaved with a straight razor that messed up his face. The diagnosis was a liver failure and he was given an inconclusive prognosis, therefore, Carol Burnett, another one of Nabors's best buddies made an appointment with the transplant division of University of California, Los Angeles and fortunately for her, he got the transplant, and returned to touring, until his retirement in 2014.

At the time Nabors was recovering from his successful heart surgery, he found out he had lost Griffith, early that summer. He was very devastated by his best buddy's death, he said: "I was saddened this morning to learn of the passing of my good friend Andy Griffith," said Nabors: "He was a legend. My thoughts and prayers are with Andy's family."[32]

Ron Howard

Griffith posing with a young Ron Howard in a publicity photo for The Andy Griffith Show (1961)

Griffith's friendship with the then-unknown Ron Howard began in 1960, when they guest-starred in the episode of Make Room For Daddy that led to the formation of The Andy Griffith Show the same year. For eight seasons, they shared a unique father-son relationship on the set and starred together in most of the show's episodes.

They guest-starred together in the show's spin-off series, Mayberry R.F.D.. They appeared in an episode where Griffith's character married his long-time girlfriend, Helen Crump, and in the Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. episode "Opie Joins the Marines", in which Howard's character, Opie, runs away from home and attempts to enlist in the US Marines. They co-starred in the TV special Return to Mayberry (1986), in which the now-adult Opie is about to become a father. They later appeared together in CBS reunion specials in 1993[15] and 2003.[16][17]

Griffith made a surprise appearance as the ghost of Andy Taylor when Howard hosted Saturday Night Live in 1982. Howard did not make any cameo appearances on Matlock, but his mother, Jean Speegle Howard, had a small role in one episode. Howard attended the People's Choice Awards in 1987, where Griffith was honored.

Until Griffith's death, Howard and Griffith kept in contact, sharing news about family and personal activities, and Griffith called Howard by his childhood nickname, Ronny.

In October 2008, Griffith and Howard briefly reprised their Mayberry roles in an online video Ron Howard's Call to Action. It was posted to comedy video website Funny or Die. The video encouraged people to vote and endorsed Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Joe Biden.[33][34]

After Griffith's death, Howard stated: "His love of creating, the joy he took in it whether it was drama or comedy or his music, was inspiring to grow up around. The spirit he created on the set of The Andy Griffith Show was joyful and professional all at once. It was an amazing environment. And I think it was a reflection of the way he felt about having the opportunity to create something that people could enjoy. It was always with respect and passion for the opportunity and really what it could offer people in a very unpretentious and earthy way. He felt he was always working in service of an audience he really respected and cared about. He was a great influence on me. His passing is sad. But he lived a great rich life."[35]

Nancy Stafford

Having been a lifelong Andy Griffith fan, since 6, Nancy Stafford was approached by Fred Silverman and Dean Hargrove, to co-star in Matlock, replacing Linda Purl, who departed from her role, due to disputes over her character. In order for this struggling actress to audition for Michelle Thomas, she'd guest-starred in 1 episode, on the fourth episode of the first season of that same show, in which she played the call girl, who was hired to frame an old football star (John Beck), with the murder for providing him with an alibi, that she refused to admit.

At the start of Season 2, Griffith's character traveled to London, England, to be introduced by Stafford's character, a 2nd time, this time, where she played a young American lawyer who worked for the patriarch of the family, who was also the first to have found that patriarch, dead, before she was hired by Matlock to be his new lawyer's assistant in Atlanta, replacing his own daughter Charlene Matlock, at the end of the episode. Despite the on- and off-screen chemistry of both Griffith and Stafford, that were an absolute, remarkable team, in both the 1980s and 1990s, however, in an aforementioned 2010 interview with On Screen And Beyond, she said she had missed numerous episodes, due to her busy scheduling, beginning with her second season in 1988. In several 2-pt. episodes, she indeed travel, in the states, with her mentor. When the series moved from Los Angeles, California to Wilmington, North Carolina, for Griffith to be closer to his house, and of course, from NBC to ABC, Stafford chose not to be relocated to another state, since she'd been married, and had decided to move on.

After her departure from Matlock, she stayed close with Griffith, until his death. Just the month after his 86th Birthday, he was supposed to have met her in her acting mentor's hometown to do a book signing at the gift store, when he already refused.

When Griffith had passed away, Stafford said, whom her acting mentor, himself, had been very healthy, until his sudden passing: "He sounded strong at the time, and so upbeat and completely sharp as a tack, as always," said Stafford, "I was shocked to find out barely a month later that he was gone."[36] Then, she also said, after his passing: "I'm heartsick....I am forever grateful for the 5 wonderful years I worked with Andy. They were a highlight of my life -- I've never laughed so hard or learned so much! He has left an indelible mark on my life -- and the lives of countless millions. He was a consummate professional, an American treasure, and a dear man."[37]

Clarence Gilyard Jr

A devout Andy Griffith fan, since 4, Clarence Gilyard Jr auditioned for the role of Conrad McMasters on Matlock, replacing Kene Holliday, who was terminated from his role, due to his long battle against drugs/alcohol. Especially when Griffith wasn't the executive producer, at the time, it was actually Griffith's call to employ the young, unfamiliar, struggling actor, who, of the 100 guys for the role, because Griffith liked his auditioning.

At the beginning of Season 4, Griffith's character traveled to his real-life hometown of Manteo, North Carolina, to be introduced by Gilyard's character, for the 1st time, where he played a young, ace sheriff, who was formerly partnered by a Chief Sheriff (played by Griffith's best friend R.G. Armstrong), in North Carolina, before he was eventually hired by Matlock to be his new private investigator in Atlanta, replacing Tyler Hudson, at the end of the episode. The on- and off-screen chemistry of both Griffith and Gilyard was a success story, and became one of televisions's popular lawyer/private investigator team, for the early part of the 1990s, and they both traveled all over the world. When the series moved from Los Angeles, California to Wilmington, North Carolina, for Griffith to be closer to his house, and of course, from NBC to ABC, Griffith then suggested to his young co-star that he moved there too, which fortunately, he did, and made limited appearances for Matlock's seventh season. He (Gilyard) lived there for a year, until he received a call from CBS to co-star opposite Chuck Norris in his then-new show Walker, Texas Ranger, and accepted the role, therefore, he departed from his Matlock role, and moved back to Los Angeles from North Carolina.

After his departure from his role on Matlock, Gilyard continued to stay in touch with Griffith, until Griffith's death, prior to Gilyard working on plays at the Neil Simon Festival in Cedar City, Utah.

Just 5 years after his acting mentor's death, Gilyard said in a 2017 interview with Las Vegas Review Journal, about his on- and off-screen chemistry with Griffith on Matlock: "Andy could have chosen any one of a thousand guys to be his partner for four seasons and he chose me. Andy was funny and a raconteur and a craftsman. I don’t think I was funny before him. He would teach me comic timing. He would come into my trailer and say, “Let’s take a look at the arc of this joke.” He would say things like, “You know you don’t have a point of view in this joke.” And I love directing comedy because I hear him all the time. I try to steer my actors toward that classic style. He would say, 'We’re going to do the George Burns thing here' or do the Jack Benny look."[38]

Daniel Roebuck

A lifelong Andy Griffith fan since birth (compared to Gilyard), Daniel Roebuck's first association with Griffith was working on the set of NBC's Matlock (at the end of the first season in 1987), having a limited scene with him as one of the young doctors who overheard Griffith's complaints that his belly ached. At that time, he didn't play Cliff Lewis. Later, Roebuck filled in as one of Matlock's lawyer assistants. Roebuck got the call from Fred Silverman, Dean Hargrove, and Andy Griffith to replace Clarence Gilyard, Jr. as Cliff Lewis for the final three seasons after Matlock moved to ABC. The show simultaneously moved from Los Angeles, California, to Wilmington, North Carolina, where Griffith did not have to do as much traveling.

After the show's run ended, Roebuck stayed in touch with Griffith, until Griffith's death. At the time of his mentor's death, Roebuck posted on his Facebook page: "Andy Griffith was one of the single most talented people I have ever worked with. Those three years spent with him, in North Carolina while filming Matlock, were some of the best of my life. God has blessed all of us with the laughter He shared with His creation through this amazing performer. Now it's our heart-felt prayer that God continue to bless Andy and his family. The laughter will live on."[39]

Political activities

In 2000, Griffith appeared in a last-minute campaign commercial where he endorsed then-Attorney General Mike Easley for governor of the state of North Carolina. Easley had been locked in a tight race with former Mayor of Charlotte Richard Vinroot and had been losing his lead in the polls. Easley would go on to win that November, taking 52% of the vote to Vinroot's 46%. Many observers dubbed Easley's victory as the "Mayberry Miracle," and credit Griffith's endorsement for stopping his falling poll numbers.[40]

In October 2008, Griffith appeared with Ron Howard in a Funny or Die video endorsement for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.[41]

In addition to his online video with Howard in 2008, in politics Griffith favored Democrats and recorded television commercials endorsing North Carolina Governors Mike Easley[42] and Bev Perdue.[43] He spoke at the inauguration ceremonies of both.[44][45] In 1989, he declined an offer by Democratic party officials to run against Jesse Helms, a Republican U.S. Senator from North Carolina.[46]

In July 2010, he also starred in advertisements about Medicare.[47][48][49]

Personal life

In 1945, while a student at the University of North Carolina, Griffith was initiated as a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, a national social music fraternity for men.[50]

Griffith and Barbara Bray Edwards were married on August 22, 1949, and they adopted two children: a son, Andy Samuel Griffith, Jr. (born in 1957 and better known as Sam Griffith) and a daughter, Dixie Nann Griffith.[51][52] They were divorced in 1972. Sam, a real-estate developer, died in 1996 after years of alcoholism.[53]

His second wife was Solica Cassuto, a Greek actress. They were married from 1973 to 1981.[54]

He and Cindi Knight were married on April 12, 1983; they had met when he was filming Murder in Coweta County.

Griffith's first serious health problem was in April 1983 when he was diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome and could not walk for seven months because of paralysis from the knees down.[55][56]

On May 9, 2000, he underwent quadruple heart-bypass surgery at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.[57] After a fall, Griffith underwent hip surgery on September 5, 2007, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.[58]


Griffith died on July 3, 2012, from a heart attack at the age of 86 at his coastal home in Manteo, Roanoke Island, in Dare County, North Carolina. He was buried in the Griffith family cemetery on the island within five hours of his death.[59][60][61]

Awards and honors


  • What it Was, Was Football (as Deacon Andy Griffith) on Capitol Records—EAP 1–498, (1953)
  • Destry Rides Again (1959 Original Broadway Cast Album, Decca Records)
  • Andy and Cleopatra on Capitol Records—T 2066, (1964)
  • Just for Laughs (1958)
  • Shouts the Blues and Old Timey Songs (1959) (album includes a guest appearance by bluesmen Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry).
  • Songs, Themes and Laughs from the Andy Griffith Show (1961)
  • Somebody Bigger Than You and I (1972)
  • American Originals (1993)
  • Precious Memories: 33 Timeless Hymns (1995)
  • I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns (1996)
  • Sings Favorite Old-Time Songs (1997)
  • Just as I Am: 30 Favorite Old Time Hymns (1998)
  • Wit & Wisdom of Andy Griffith (1998)
  • Favorite Old Time Songs (2000)
  • Absolutely the Best (2002)
  • Back to Back Hits (2003)
  • The Christmas Guest (2003)
  • Bound for the Promised Land: The Best of Andy Griffith Hymns (2005)
  • The Collection (2005)
  • Pickin' and Grinnin': The Best of Andy Griffith (2005)



Short subjects

  • Rowan & Martin at the Movies (1968)
  • What It Was, Was Football (1997)
  • Waitin' on a Woman (music video by Brad Paisley featuring Griffith) (2008)
  • Ron Howard's Call To Action – Video Short – Andy Taylor (2008)

Television work

Year Title Role Notes
1960 Make Room for Daddy Andy Taylor Episode: "Danny meets Andy Griffith"
(Andy and Opie Taylor were first introduced in season seven) (1960)
1960–1968 The Andy Griffith Show Sheriff Andy Taylor 249 episodes
1966–1968 Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. Andy Taylor 2 episodes, 1 uncredited
1968–1969 Mayberry R.F.D. Andy Taylor 5 episodes
1970 The Headmaster Andy Thompson 13 episodes
1971 The New Andy Griffith Show Andy Sawyer 10 episodes
1972 The Mod Squad George Carter Episode: "Big George"
1972 The Strangers in 7A Artie Sawyer TV movie
1972 Hawaii Five-O Arnold Lovejoy Episode: "I'm a Family Crook, Don't Shoot!"
1973 Go Ask Alice Priest TV movie
1974 Pray for the Wildcats Sam Farragut TV movie
1974 Winter Kill Sheriff Sam McNeill TV movie
1974 Savages Horton Madec TV movie
1975 Adams of Eagle Lake Sheriff Sam Adams Cancelled after two episodes
1976 The Bionic Woman Jack Starkey Episode: "Angel of Mercy"
1976 Street Killing Gus Brenner TV movie
1976 Six Characters in Search of an Author The Father TV movie
1976 Frosty's Winter Wonderland Narrator (voice) TV short
1977 Washington: Behind Closed Doors Esker Scott Anderson TV mini-series, 6 episodes
1977 The Girl in the Empty Grave Police Chief Abel Marsh TV movie
1977 Deadly Game Police Chief Abel Marsh TV movie
1978–1979 Centennial Professor Lewis Vernor TV mini-series, 10 episodes
1979 Salvage 1 Harry Broderick Cancelled after 20 episodes
1979 From Here to Eternity General Barney Slater TV mini-series, 3 episodes
1979 Roots: The Next Generations' Commander Robert Munroe TV mini-series
Episode: "#1.6"
1980 The Yeagers Carroll Yeager Cancelled after two episodes
1981 Murder in Texas Ash Robinson TV movie
1982 For Lovers Only Vernon Bliss TV movie
1982 Fantasy Island Judge Roy Bean Episode: "Legends/The Perfect Gentleman"
1983 Murder in Coweta County John Wallace TV movie
1983 The Demon Murder Case Guy Harris TV movie
1984 Fatal Vision Victor Worheide TV mini-series, precursor to Matlock
2 episodes
1985 Crime of Innocence Judge Julius Sullivan TV movie
1986 Diary of a Perfect Murder Ben Matlock TV movie
1986 Return to Mayberry Andy Taylor TV movie
1986–1995 Matlock Ben Matlock / Charlie Matlock 181 episodes
1986 Under the Influence Noah Talbot TV movie
1993 Andy Griffith Show Reunion
1994 The Gift of Love Phil Doucet TV movie
1995 Gramps Jack MacGruder TV movie
1997 Diagnosis: Murder Ben Matlock 2 episodes
1998 Scattering Dad Hiram TV movie
1999 A Holiday Romance Jake Peterson TV movie
2001 Dawson's Creek Andrew Lanier, Mr. Brooks' Friend Episode: "A Winter's Tale"
2003 Andy Griffith Show Reunion: Back To Mayberry [73]


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External links