One of television’s most beloved actors, Andy Griffith, died this morning at his home in Dare County, N.C., USA Today reports. The star of “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Matlock” was 86.
Griffith, born in Mount Airy, N.C., played Sheriff Andy Taylor on the CBS sitcom “The Andy Griffith Show” from 1960-1968. Moving from comedy to drama, he found success again as a country lawyer in “Matlock,” which ran from 1986-1995, first on NBC and for its last two seasons on ABC.
Before he became a familiar face on television, Griffith broke through with a tour de force performance in Elia Kazan’s landmark 1957 dramatic feature “A Face in the Crowd,” playing a man who becomes a demagogue on TV. He followed that performance with another well-received outing in the 1958 comedy feature “No Time for Sergeants,” reprising a role he had played on Broadway.
Griffith worked consistently in television between his major series roles, receiving an Emmy nomination for the NBC TV movie “Murder in Texas” in 1981.
Along with his acting career, Griffith was a director and producer, a writer and a Southern gospel singer, winning a Grammy in 1997 for his album “I Love to Tell the Story — 25 Timeless Hymns.”
After “The Andy Griffith Show” ended its run in 1968, Griffith executive produced the show that continued the storylines of some of the show’s characters, “Mayberry R.F.D.,” which aired for three seasons on CBS. Griffith made occasional guest appearances on the show, which was headlined by Ken Berry and George Lindsey.
Before settling in on “Matlock,” Griffith appeared in a number of short-lived series, including “The New Andy Griffith Show” (1971), “Centennial” (1978-79) and “Salvage 1” (1979).
He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
Griffith’s last screen credit was as Grandpa Joe in the 2009 feature “Play the Game.”
Griffith underwent quadruple heart-bypass surgery in 2000, and in 2007 had hip surgery after a fall, USA Today reports.
The story adds: “Griffith and his first wife, Barbara Bray Edwards, married in 1949. They were divorced in 1972 and she got custody of their daughter Dixie and he got custody of son Sam, who died in 1996 after years of alcoholism. His second marriage, to Greek actress Solica Cassuto, lasted eight years, from 1973 to 1981.
“He and Cindi Knight were married on April 12, 1983, when she was 27 and he was 56. A private man, he told the Virginian-Pilot in 2008 in a lengthy profile by Mal Vincent that he’s friendly and outgoing to a point, but has been known to turn down requests for autographs.”
In that interview, Griffith quipped: "When my wife, Cindi, and I go somewhere and we don’t want to be recognized, she says, ‘Don’t talk.’"
Here’s a clip of Griffith as Lonesome Rhodes, with Patricia Neal, in “A Face in the Crowd”: