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About Andy Griffith
"North Carolina Birth Index, 1800-2000," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VCQN-FGZ : 8 December 2014), Andy Samuel Griffith, 07 Jun 1926; from "North Carolina, Birth and Death Indexes, 1800-2000," database and images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 2005); citing vol. 12, p. 815, Surry, North Carolina, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.
"While he will mostly be remembered for his roles on The Andy Griffith Show (1960-68) and Matlock (1986-95) which made TV history, Andy Griffith is also a Grammy Award-winning Southern-gospel singer. He was born on June 1, 1926 in Mount Airy, North Carolina, the only child of Geneva (née Nunn) and Carl Lee Griffith. At a very young age, Griffith had to live with relatives until his parents could afford to get a home of their own. Without a crib or a bed, he slept in drawers for a few months. In 1929, when Griffith was three years old, his father took a job working as a carpenter and was finally able to purchase a home in Mount Airy's "blue-collar" southside.
Like his mother, Griffith grew up listening to music. His father instilled a sense of humor from old family stories. 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 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 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, a play still performed today on historic Roanoke Island, part of the history filled Outer Banks, the barrier islands that sit along most of coastal North Carolina. 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 began college studying to be a Moravian preacher, but he changed his major to music and became a part of the school's Carolina Play Makers. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and graduated with a bachelor of music degree in 1949. At UNC he was president of the UNC Men's Glee Club and a member of the Alpha Rho Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, America's oldest fraternity for men in music.
After graduation, he taught English for a few years at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, North Carolina. He also began to write. Griffith continued performing fitfully as an after-dinner speaker on the men's club circuit, developing hilariously bucolic routines on subjects ranging from Shakespeare to football. Under the aegis of agent/producer Richard O. Linke, Griffith returned to acting, attaining stardom in the role of bumptious Air Force rookie Will Stockdale in the TV and Broadway productions of No Time For Sergeants. Before committing Sergeants to film, Griffith made his movie debut in director Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd, in which he portrayed an outwardly folksy but inwardly vicious TV personality (patterned, some say, after Arthur Godfrey).
After filming Face in the Crowd, No Time for Sergeants and Onionhead for Warner Bros. during the years 1957 and 1958, Griffith starred in a 1959 Broadway musical version of Destry Rides Again; as an added source of income, Griffith ran a North Carolina supermarket.
On February 15, 1960 he first appeared as Andy Taylor, the laid-back sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina, on an episode of The Danny Thomas Show. This one-shot was of course the pilot film for the Emmy-winning The Andy Griffith Show, in which Griffith starred from 1960 through 1968. Eternally easygoing on camera, Griffith, who owned 50% of the series, ruled his sitcom set with an iron hand, though he was never as hard on the other actors as he was on himself. He remained close to fellow Griffith stars Don Knotts and Ron Howard through his lifetime.
An unsuccessful return to films with 1969's Angel in My Pocket was followed by an equally unsuccessful 1970 TV series Headmaster. For the next 15 years, Griffith confined himself to guest-star appearances, often surprising his fans by accepting cold-blooded villainous roles. In 1985, he made a triumphal return to series television in Matlock, playing a folksy but very crafty Southern defense attorney.
A life-threatening disease known as Gillian-Barre syndrome curtailed his activities in the late 1980s, but as of 1995 Andy Griffith was still raking in the ratings with his infrequent Matlock two-hour specials.
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 Party U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama, and U.S. vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden.
On July 3, 2012, Griffith died at his home on Roanoke Island in Dare County, North Carolina, at age 86. He is survived by two children from his first marriage, according to the biography site. A third son died of an overdose at the age of 36, according to American Profile.
News article from the Virginia Pilot, July 11, 2012 - "The flags are flying at half-staff in Mayberry today.
Andy Griffith, a homespun man of the people whose North Carolina upbringing informed his role as an icon of Americana, died Tuesday morning at age 86 at his home on his beloved Roanoke Island. He was laid to rest shortly afterward. For many people, Griffith became the face of small-town America through his role as Andy Taylor, sheriff of the fictional Mayberry in "The Andy Griffith Show." It was a role inspired by his upbringing in Mount Airy, N.C., where he was born June 1, 1926, and spent his first year sleeping in a dresser drawer. Griffith's time in Mayberry provided him an enduring cultural legacy. But the actor's personal story never strayed far from the roots of his home state and specifically Manteo, his final homestead. "Manteo was his Mayberry," said Eddie Greene, a Manteo resident and friend of Griffith.
On Tuesday, a Dare County sheriff's deputy stood guard at the gate to Griffith's 70-acre estate. Someone dropped a bouquet of orange day lilies, with a card that read, "We'll miss you Andy." Scott Williams of Kill Devil Hills stopped to snap pictures of the entrance of Griffith's home. "Unfortunately today, there are few communities like Mayberry," Williams said. "It's kind of like an ideal."
Old-timers on Roanoke Island still think of Griffith as the barefoot actor who came to town somewhere around 1947 to take a job as a soldier in "The Lost Colony," the outdoor drama that is the longest-running production in American theater history. He graduated to the role of Sir Walter Raleigh two years later. It was the site of Griffith's first professional acting job, where he met his future wife and the place he spent the final years of his life. Griffith's Manteo home is a short walk from where "The Lost Colony" is staged. Much of Griffith's life story is threaded through North Carolina's Outer Banks, but his artistic start came in the north central part of the state. Griffith's artistic interests began in the Mount Airy high school with music, specifically the trombone. He swept the high school for $6 a month to make the $36 needed to buy the instrument. In his junior year of high school, he switched to singing. "I wanted to be an opera singer," he once told The Virginian-Pilot. "It's true. I have a better voice that you'd know."
He moved on to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in music and joined the respected Carolina Playmakers. He took a shine to campus beauty Barbara Edwards, who was getting most of the starring roles. She's the woman who took him to Manteo, as the young couple worked together at "The Lost Colony" for five seasons. They were married on Roanoke Island in 1949, as he put it, "in an Anglican chapel by a Methodist minister to a Baptist maiden while a Roman Catholic pumped the pipe organ." The couple went to Goldsboro, N.C., where she was choir director at a local church and he taught music at the high school. Together, they traveled North Carolina doing their two-person show for Rotary Clubs, conventions, weddings - "anything," he said. "Our pay was $75 plus 10 cents a mile and free dinner before the show." A comedic record called "What It Was, Was Football" put Griffith on the national map. "I made it up during the 45-minute drive from Chapel Hill to Raleigh," he said. It was about a country boy who had never seen a football game. Recorded in Chapel Hill, the skit went national and became one of the most popular comedic recordings in history. Ed Sullivan called in 1954. Three years later, Griffith made his spectacular movie debut in "A Face in the Crowd," playing the role of Lonesome Rhodes, a psychotic egomaniac trying to control an election.
In 1960, he was the star of "The Andy Griffith Show," which he didn't think would last even through its first year. "I was so country, trying to be funny. It was pretty cornball," he said. Griffith played a sage widower named Andy Taylor who offered gentle guidance to son Opie, played by little Ron Howard, who grew up to become an Oscar-winning director. Griffith inhabited the sheriff's "aw, shucks" persona so completely that viewers easily believed the character and the man were one. Co-star Don Knotts, who died in 2006, said in a 1964 interview: "People thought he wasn't acting and that Andy Taylor was just naturally him, but it wasn't at all. He was so good that it made it look natural."
In 1972, Griffith's 23-year marriage to Edwards ended. About it, he said only that "Barbara wasn't thick-skinned enough for show business. You've got to be able to fail and stand it." They had two adopted children, Dixie Nann and Sam. His second marriage was to Greek actress Solica Cassuto. It lasted eight years, ending in 1981. His final, and most enduring, romance started on the Outer Banks. It's where he met Cindi Knight, who was a dancer in "The Lost Colony." He spent the rest of his life with her. "It was a very slow romance to develop - over years of time," she said. They were married on Roanoke Island in April 1983. Cindi was 27; he was 56. Just two months after the marriage, Griffith was hit by a rare neurological disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome, leaving him paralyzed from the knees down. "I couldn't walk for eight months," he said. "When I did walk it was with braces."
He rebounded from the disease, and his lack of work, with a momentous comeback in 1986 as the titular lawyer in "Matlock." The show ran on NBC for nine years. Griffith loved "Matlock" most because he played a "smart Southerner. Not a rube."
In 2000 he faced a life-threatening drama at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital where he had a quadruple bypass surgery. The near-death experience of Andy Griffith, registered under a different name and transported from Manteo in an ambulance, went unnoticed by the world. "When I got to the hospital in Norfolk," he said, "I was literally dying." His first thought was that he'd never work again. "There is nothing worse, emotionally," he said, "than not working. "I knew if they got wind of this in Hollywood, everybody would think I was dying and I'd never be insurable again. I came out of it, and I worked again." Namely, with roles on the TV show "Dawson's Creek" and in the critically acclaimed film "Waitress."
The fact that Griffith is laid to rest on his beloved Roanoke Island would be one that most pleased him. "There is no where else on earth I would rather be," he said. He first arrived there in 1947. He will now rest there forever."