When I woke up this morning, I was extremely saddened to learn that iconic actor Andy Griffith died early today at the age of 86.
Griffith has been a solid presence in most of our lives since 1960, when he stepped in front of the camera and first took up his role of Sheriff Andy Taylor in “The Andy Griffith Show”. Although he was already an established actor – having acted in several films and Broadway plays – it would be his creation of this beloved character that would win Griffith a place in all of our hearts.
Centered around the North Carolina Sheriff, his bumbling Deputy (played by Don Knotts), and his son Opie (a young Ron Howard), “The Andy Griffith Show” took place in a small town called Mayberry – the kind of ideal place that everyone dreams of growing up, but that never really exists outside of our imaginations. The series ran until 1968 where it became one of only 3 shows in the history of television to wrap filming while still at the top of the ratings.
From there, Griffith went on to accept parts in several movies, starring as a much darker character than the friendly Sheriff in the film “Pray For The Wildcats,” before taking on the role of Atlanta based lawyer Benjamin Matlock in the 1986 television series “Matlock”. The show ran until 1995 and once again Griffith took center stage in our hearts and minds as he out-witted criminals in a style reminiscent of “Perry Mason”.
In 1997, Griffith went back to his roots (he majored in Music at Chapel Hill) and won a Grammy for his album “I Love to Tell the Story — 25 Timeless Hymns”.
On a more personal note however…Andy Griffith has been in my life since the very beginning of it! Though I didn’t come along until about the same time as “Matlock,” and never got to actually see the shows when they originally aired, I grew up on re-runs of “The Andy Griffith Show” on TV Land and have probably seen every episode of “Matlock” at least 3 times. Seriously, I’m not sure I would have survived sick days home from school without Andy Griffith on the television to comfort and distract me. Just the sound of the opening credits to either show is enough to put me in a good mood. So thank you, Mr. Griffith, for all of the lives you touched, and for the many memorable television moments you’ve given us over the years!! Rest in Peace!