Andy Griffith — a gifted and beloved actor best known to Americans as Sheriff Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” — has reportedly died.
Bill Friday, a close friend of Griffith’s and the former president of the University of North Carolina, told WITN, a North Carolina TV station, that Griffith died around 7 this morning at his North Carolina home. The cause of his death has not been identified, though he had a history of heart troubles, according to this 2008 profile in the Virginian-Pilot. The Post is still seeking official confirmation of Mr. Griffith’s death.
Update: The Associated Press has now confirmed, via Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie, that Griffith died this morning, noting that Griffith’s family will release additional information.
Griffith was truly a Carolina man through and through: he was born there (in Mt. Airy), he brought TV fame to the state by playing Sheriff Taylor in the fictional North Carolina town of Mayberry, he resided there for much of his life and now, he has passed on there as well.
Most Americans remember him best as the good-hearted, drawling sheriff on “The Andy Griffith Show,” the sitcom that shared his name and, for better or worse, formed his show business identity. The popular series ran for eight years on CBS, spawning spin-offs like “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” and “Mayberry R.F.D.”
But Griffith had a broader range as an actor; in addition to his second-most famous TV role — that of no-nonsense defense attorney Benjamin Matlock — he also tackled movie roles, most notably a star-launching dramatic turn as a drunkard who finds fame in Elia Kazan’s “A Face in the Crowd,” a critically acclaimed movie released three years before Griffith would settle in and start raising Opie in Mayberry.
Griffith also had a Grammy Award to his credit and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented to him by George w. Bush in 2005.
As his many fans and admirers remember him today, they will undoubtedly recall the summer-in-the-country whistle of “The Andy Griffith Show” theme song. He may have been America’s Sheriff. But he was also everybody’s Paw.