07/03/12 — Mayberry in mourning: Actor Andy Griffith dies

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Mayberry in mourning: Actor Andy Griffith dies

By From staff reports
Published in News on July 3, 2012 1:46 PM

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Andy Griffith - June 1, 1926 - July 3, 2012

MANTEO -- Actor Andy Griffith, an iconic figure in North Carolina, died early today at the age of 86.

News reports quoted William Friday, former president of the University of North Carolina and close friend, as saying that Griffith died about 7 a.m. at his home in Dare County.

Griffith earned everlasting fame as Sheriff Andy Taylor of the fictional town of Mayberry in the long-running "Andy Griffith Show."

Griffith, who taught at Goldsboro High School for several years before making it big in show business, was considered one of the state's most beloved figures. In addition to his role as Sheriff Taylor, he also made the character of Matlock a favorite among TV viewers in a later show in which he portrayed a southern lawyer.

Griffith also starred in several movies, including his breakout role in "A Face in the Crowd," and "No Time for Sergeants." He also worked as a director, producer and won a Grammy Award as a gospel singer and writer.

Andrew Samuel Griffith, a native of Mount Airy, attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied music and theater. He married a fellow UNC alumnus and actress, Barbara Bray Edwards. Their marriage lasted from 1949 until 1972. He was later married to Solica Cassuto from 1975 until 1981 and was married to Cindi Knight in 1983.

Griffith, who showed both musical and comedic talent from an early age, began his career as an actor in "The Lost Colony" summer theater and eventually fell in love with the Outer Banks, where he built a home and spent most of his time when not working.

Griffith received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 from President George W. Bush.

Griffith shot to fame when he made and released a comedic record called "What It Was Was Football," which was told from the point of view of a rural backwoodsman trying to figure out what was going on in a football game. Released as a single in 1953 on the Colonial label, the monologue became a national hit.

In 1957, Griffith made his film debut, starring in the film "A Face in the Crowd." Although he plays a country boy, his character is manipulative and power-hungry. The movie co-starred Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau, Tony Franciosa, and Lee Remick and was directed by Elia Kazan.

"The Andy Griffth Show" struck a chord with American audiences looking for a reminder of a simpler time. It also starred Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife. The two actors became lifelong friends.

The show also introduced a young actor named Ron Howard, who later became one of Hollywood's major producers.

Griffith didn't always play likeable characters. His acting range gave him a chance to play devious people, such as the character of Lonesome Rhodes in "A Face in the Crowd."

But he was best known as the fatherly figure from his "Mayberry" days and as the wise grandfatherly attorney in "Matlock."