July 05, 2012

Television Icon Andy Griffith Passes at 86

The beloved star of The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock was a television fixture for five decades.

Andy Griffith, the beloved actor best known for two long-running television series — The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock — died July 3, 2012, at his home on Roanoke Island, North Carolina. He was 86.

According to news reports no cause of death was available at the time.

Although best known for his television work, Griffith thrived on the stage and in feature films before making the transition to the small screen, where he left an indelible legacy.

On Twitter, Ron Howard, who played Opie Taylor, Griffith’s son, on The Andy Griffith Show, wrote, “His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations & shaped my life.”

In 1991, Griffith was inducted into the Academy of Television Academy Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame, and in 2005, President George W. Bush honored Griffith with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for “demonstrating the finest qualities of our country and for a lifetime of memorable performances that have brought joy to millions of Americans of all ages.”

Griffith was also a recording artist, and in 2007, he was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame and Museum. His 1996 he received a Grammy Award for the album I Love to Tell the Story — 25 Timeless Hymns.

He was born June 7, 1926, in Mount Airy, North Carolina, and in 1949 he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in music.

Although he initially contemplated the ministry, he ultimately gravitated toward music and acting. While performing in the play The Lost Colony with the Carolina Playmakers, he met his first wife, Barbara Edwards, who for a time served as his booking agent. After graduating from college, he taught high school music while pursuing work as a singer, dancer, guitarist and humorist.

A breakthrough came in 1953 with the comedy album, What It Was, Was Football. The success of the recording led to other comedy albums and, eventually, nightclub bookings and an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

After taking his act on tour, he made his Broadway debut in 1955 in the long-running comedy No Time for Sergeants. The play was later adapted for television as well as a feature film, in both of which Griffith reprised his Tony-nominated starring role as a country bumpkin drafted into the U.S Air Force.

He earned a second Tony nomination in 1960 for the play Destry Rides Again.

with the cynical 1957 film A Face in the Crowd, written by Budd Schulberg and directed by Elia Kazan. Griffith dominated the film in the starring role of Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, a folksy Arkansas musician who becomes a media celebrity and ultimately becomes unhinged with power.

Griffith found his most enduring role in 1960, with the debut of The Andy Griffith Show, in which starred as Andy Taylor, sheriff of the bucolic town of Mayberry, North Carolina. The series ended in 1968, but was highly rated until the very end.

In the ensuing years Griffith had other series, including The New Andy Griffith Show and Salvage 1, as well as the miniseries Centennial and Washington: Behind Closed Doors. Then, in 1986, he created another memorable character in the title role of the legal series Matlock, in which he played a high-priced Southern attorney.

He earned a Primetime Emmy nomination for a supporting performance in the 1981 made-for-television movie Murder in Texas.

Griffith’s first two marriages ended in divorce. Survivors include his third wife.

Additional information is available at Emmys.com here.

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