He was a vocalist, an actor, a stand-up comic, a producer and once even a schoolteacher, but we knew him best for creating the mythic Mayberry, a Camelot in bib overalls where home-spun wisdom reigned.
He was Andrew Samuel Griffith, but we knew him best as “Andy.” He died Tuesday at age 86 in Manteo.
“Andy Griffith means the world to the arts everywhere – not just here in Mount Airy,” said Tanya Jones, executive director of the Surry Arts Council, which oversees the Andy Griffith Museum there. “We are blessed to have known him. We will cherish his art, his music, his talent, and of course, our beloved “Andy Griffith Show.’ ”
“Andy Griffith. His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations & shaped my life. I’m forever grateful. RIP Andy,” tweeted Hollywood director Ron Howard, whose formative years were spent on the set of “The Andy Griffith Show” as Opie, the precocious son of the small-town sheriff Andy Taylor.
In the landmark series about family values that entertained millions in the 1960s and thrives five decades later in syndication, their father-son relationship was one of the few that wasn’t played just for laughs.
While it’s likely that many Southern nationalists had some differences with Griffith’s politics, his characters, for which he will be remembered, were certainly positive Southern role-models. At a time when policemen everywhere in the United States were being transformed from local peace officers to law-enforcement officers, ‘Andy Taylor’ and the idyllic Southern town in which he lived were a reminder of what was being lost.
By the way, few people probably know this, but Griffith had an adopted daughter named Dixie.