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Don Knotts

  • Birthplace: Morgantown, West Virginia
  • Birthday: July 21
Date of passing: 
February 24, 2006

Don Knotts was born in Morgantown, West Virginia,  the youngest of four sons.

His first stint as an entertainer was as a ventriloquist, performing paid gigs at parties and other events in Morgantown. He decided to make a stab at a career in show business, moving to New York City after graduating from high school, but he only lasted in the Big Apple for a few weeks.

He decided to go to college, enrolling at West Virginia University but, when World War II broke out, he enlisted in the United States Army. The 19-year-old soldier was assigned to the Special Services Branch, where he entertained the troops.

Don Knotts was born in Morgantown, West Virginia,  the youngest of four sons.

His first stint as an entertainer was as a ventriloquist, performing paid gigs at parties and other events in Morgantown. He decided to make a stab at a career in show business, moving to New York City after graduating from high school, but he only lasted in the Big Apple for a few weeks.

He decided to go to college, enrolling at West Virginia University but, when World War II broke out, he enlisted in the United States Army. The 19-year-old soldier was assigned to the Special Services Branch, where he entertained the troops.

Knotts  returned to West Virginia University after he was discharged from the army. After graduating with a degree in theater in 1948, he married and moved back to New York, where connections he had made while in the Special Services Branch helped him break into show business.

In addition to doing stand-up comedy at clubs, he appeared on the radio. On Broadway, he was cast in the small role of the psychiatrist in the play No Time for Sergeants, which starred Andy Griffith, who would play a large part in Knotts’s future career. He also appeared in the film adaption of the play with Griffith.

Knotts was a regular gig on the Steve Allen Plymouth Show, starting in 1956. He became well-known for his "nervous man" shtick in the "Man-on-the-Street" segments that were a staple of Allen's show. His character in the segments was a very nervous man obviously uptight about being interviewed on camera. He developed this into the fidgety, high-strung persona that he used successfully for the rest of his career.

When The Tonight Show moved to Hollywood in 1959 with new host Jack Paar, Knotts also moved to California as a regular. However, he was soon cast in Andy Griffith's new television series about a small-town sheriff, The Andy Griffith Show (1960), in the role that would be his best known. For playing Deputy Barney Fife, Knotts was nominated for five Emmy Awards for Best Supporting Actor from 1961 to 1967, winning each time.

He was cast as would-be-swinger landlord Ralph Furley on the popular sitcom Three's Company (1976) after the original landlords were spun off into their own series. After the show was canceled in 1984, he again appeared as Barney Fife for a 1986 reunion of The Andy Griffith Show (1960) and in television guest spots, including a recurring gig as the pesky neighbor Les Calhoun on Griffith's Matlock (1986) series until 1992.

He remained busy for the next 10 years touring with plays and doing voice-over work for cartoons. He died at age 81 on February 24, 2006.

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