Actor Andy Griffith, an unlikely star best known for his portrayal of Sheriff Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show, has died at his home in Manteo, North Carolina. Griffith was 86.
Born in Mount Airy, North Carolina, Griffith obtained a degree in music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He once told an interviewer he initially planned a career in ministry. When his ministry leader told him that he could not pursue that career path with a degree in music, he stood by his first love and declared music his major anyway. Immediately following graduation, he worked as a secondary school music teacher in Goldsboro, NC until he and first wife Barbara Edwards began a traveling act, marking his introduction into the entertainment business.
Griffith was a Tony-nominated Broadway actor who also appeared numerous times on the Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen Shows. His breakout hit, though, would be his self-titled show modeled after his beloved home town of Mount Airy. On the show, Griffith was the friendly, concerned sheriff of a small town raising his son alone after being widowed. The simple wisdom he shared captured the hearts of many, as evidence by the fact that the show is one of the most popular in television history; despite ending in 1968, re-runs of the show are still being aired today. He would later try to break from his father-figure role, eventually landing the role of attorney Ben Matlock in 1986.
While many cherish his depictions of a simpler life, Andy Griffith was also a successful director and producer who started his own production company in 1972. Griffith’s musical talents served him well: he was won the People’s Choice Award for his depiction of Ben Matlock. His lesser known accomplishments include a 1997 Grammy Award for Best Southern Gospel Album as well as his 2007 induction into the Christian Music Hall of Fame.
He is survived by wife Cindi Knight and two adult children. His son, Andy Griffith, Jr. died in 1996 of an accidental overdose.