It’s an extremely sad day in Mayberry and around the world.
Veteran actor Andy Griffith, best known as Sheriff Andy Taylor from the iconic, classic 1960’s show that bore his name, and for his role as criminal defense attorney Ben Matlock, died on Tuesday at his home on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. He was 86-years-old.
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Mr. Griffith was already a star, with rave reviews on Broadway in “No Time for Sergeants” and in Elia Kazan’s film “A Face in the Crowd,” when “The Andy Griffith Show” made its debut in the fall of 1960. And he delighted a later generation of television viewers in the 1980s and ’90s in the title role of the courtroom drama “Matlock.”
But his fame was never as great as it was in the 1960s, when he starred for eight years as Andy Taylor, the sagacious sheriff of the make-believe Southern town of Mayberry, running weekly herd on a collection of eccentrics like his ineffectual deputy, Barney Fife, and the simple-minded gas station attendant Gomer Pyle while, as a widower, patiently raising a young son, Opie.
“The Andy Griffith Show,” Monday nights on CBS, was No. 4 in the Nielsen ratings its first year and never fell below the Top 10. It was No. 1 in 1968, its last season. After the run ended with Episode No. 249, the show lived on in spinoff series, endless reruns and even Sunday school classes organized around its rustic moral lessons.
“His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations & shaped my life,” tweets Ron Howard, who played Griffith’s son Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show. “I’m forever grateful.”
Andy Griffith, and the myriad of familiar, down-home characters in Mayberry, brought decades of joy and laughter to millions of people. There is no doubt that his work will live on in the annals of television and film history, but his presence will surely be missed.