* Best remembered as Mayberry's Sheriff Andy Taylor
* Griffith also played folksy lawyer Matlock
(Adds Ron Howard reaction, paragraph 10)
By Bill Trott and Jane Sutton
July 3 Actor Andy Griffith, whose portrayal of a
small-town sheriff made "The Andy Griffith Show" one of
television's most enduring programs, died on Tuesday at his
North Carolina home at age 86.
Griffith died at about 7 a.m. at his home on Roanoke Island,
Dare County Sheriff J.D. Doughtie said.
His wife of three decades, Cindi Griffith, was at his bedside
and issued a statement saying: "I cannot imagine life without
Andy, but I take comfort and strength in God's Grace and in the
knowledge that Andy is at peace and with God."
The family said Griffith "has been laid to rest on his
beloved Roanoke Island," but did not elaborate.
Griffith created another memorable TV character, the folksy
defense lawyer in "Matlock" in the 1980s and 1990s, but it was
his role as Sheriff Andy Taylor on the "The Andy Griffith Show"
in the 1960s that gave him a place in television history.
The show depicted life in the friendly, slow-moving
fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina, which was widely
believed to have been based on Griffith's own hometown, Mount
Airy, in that state.
"North Carolina has lost its favorite son," Governor Beverly
Perdue said. "Andy Griffith graciously stepped into the living
rooms of generations of Americans, always with the playful charm
that made him the standard by which entertainers would be
measured for decades ... In an increasingly complicated world,
we all yearn for the days of Mayberry."
President Barack Obama said he was saddened to hear of
"A performer of extraordinary talent, Andy was beloved by
generations of fans and revered by entertainers who followed in
his footsteps," Obama said in a statement.
Ron Howard, who played Griffith's son Opie on the show and
went on to become an Oscar-winning director, praised him by
telling Entertainment Weekly's website, "He was fantastic. There
was a fantastic equilibrium between his love of laughter and
jokes and funny stories and songs and all that, and then he
could turn on a dime and be the utmost professional."
There was little crime to fight in Mayberry so the stories
centered on the sheriff and his interactions with the quirky
"The basic theme of our show was love," Griffith said in a
2003 interview with CNN. "All the characters loved each other.
And all the actors loved each other, too."
The show, a situation comedy, was an entertaining diversion
for viewers from the social and political upheavals of the
"It was at a point where America was really in turmoil,"
executive producer John Watkin told USA Today. "'The Andy
Griffith Show' and Mayberry represented in some sense this kind
of idealized view of what America was. It contains such a heart,
such a sense of community."
Some said Griffith's Mayberry was too sanitized, with none
of the strife generated by the anti-war and civil rights
protests of the time. In fact, there were no regular black
characters on the show.
"We tried in every way to get that to happen but we were
unable to do it," Griffith told USA Today in discussing
Mayberry's all-white population.
Griffith was born June 1, 1926, and had ambitions of being a
preacher. At the University of North Carolina he earned a degree
in dramatic arts in 1949 and started performing in singing
A RUBE WATCHING FOOTBALL
He first made a name with a comedy recording, "What It Was,
Was Football," a spoof of a rube trying to follow the action at
his first football game. That led to an appearance on "The Ed
Sullivan Show," and from there Griffith starred in both the
stage and film versions of "No Time for Sergeants."
He made a big impact as a dramatic actor in his first movie,
1957's "A Face in the Crowd," playing a scheming drifter whose
aw-shucks persona catapults him to success as a television show
host until his dark side was exposed.
Griffith later played a small-town sheriff in a television
episode of "The Danny Thomas Show," which led to "The Andy
Don Knotts, who had appeared with Griffith in the stage and
screen versions of "No Time for Sergeants," had seen "The Danny
Thomas Show" episode and suggested the sheriff would need a
deputy in a full-fledged TV series. He came aboard and his
portrayal of bungling and overeager Deputy Barney Fife won
Knotts five Emmy awards.
"When Don joined the show, by the second episode, I knew
that Don should be funny and I should play straight for him,"
Griffith told CNN.
The Griffith-Knotts friendship endured until Knotts' death
in February 2006.
"The Andy Griffith Show" ran from 1960 until 1968, the year
it reached No. 1 in television ratings. Griffith decided to
leave that year, and the show continued without him using new
characters and a new name, before being canceled in 1971.
But "The Andy Griffith Show" has lived on ever since in
syndication and on cable television, creating a cottage industry
of fan clubs, websites and memorabilia.
"I wanted to prove that I could play something else, but
there were 249 episodes out there of 'Mayberry,' and it was
aired every day. It was hard to escape," movie database IMDB
quoted him as saying.
On Broadway, Griffith was nominated for two Tony awards, in
1956 as a featured actor in "No Time for Sergeants" and in 1960
as an actor in the musical "Destry Rides Again."
He often recorded and won a Grammy award for his 1996 gospel
album "I Love To Tell The Story."
Griffith spent most of his later years in the Atlantic Coast
town of Manteo, North Carolina.
He was married and divorced twice before he wed Cindi Knight
Griffith in 1983. He had two children.
(Editing by Eric Beech and Eric Walsh)