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Andy Griffith: He Makes “Folksy” Trendy

Best known for his roles as laid-back, nurturing country sheriff, Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show and the outspoken, unorthodox, yet downhome Atlanta attorney with a penchant for hot dogs in Matlock, Andy Griffith, was a Hollywood star who never strayed from his Carolina roots.

He once said of himself and his Matlock character:

“I am from a little town in North Carolina. I have chosen to keep one foot in that life and my other foot in this life and I’ve had success with that. This man does the same thing. He is from a little community outside of Atlanta, and he has chosen to keep one foot in that life and the other foot in this life.”

Here’s a quick look at the life of one of INSP fans’ favorite actors, Andy Griffith.

Small Town, Big Dreams

The Early Days

Andy Griffith was born, Andrew Samuel Griffith, in Mount Airy, North Carolina on June 1, 1926 to Geneva and Carl Lee Griffith. He would be an only child, growing up poor.

Andy’s first dream was to become an opera singer, but later changed his major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to courses in pre-divinity, hoping one day to be a minister in the Moravian church. But music still tugged at his heart and he became involved with drama and musical theater.

In a 2005 interview with American Profile magazine, Andy says, “I went to the bishop and said, ‘Can I major in music and still be a minister?’ and he said no.” He goes on to say, he prayed about his dilemma, and soon after, switched his major. He graduated in 1949 with a degree in music. In fact, in his TV roles, he’s often seen picking a guitar or banjo.

After graduation, Andy taught high school music for three years, then wanting to make his mark in show business, he and his then wife, Barbara Edwards, an actor he met at UNC, developed a variety-style show featuring songs, dance, comedic monologues, and they hit the road. One of the monologues written and performed by Andy, “What it Was Was Football,” became a hit commercial release in 1953.

Stage and Screen

Soon Andy was making regular appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Steve Allen Show, and in 1955 he was cast in the role of Pvt. Will Stockdale in the Broadway play, No Time for Sergeants, for which he received a Tony nomination. He reprised his role in the film version. In 1960, he received yet another Tony nomination for the role of Destry in the Broadway musical, Destry Rides Again. He made his big screen debut as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes in the critically-acclaimed film, A Face in the Crowd.

But it would be the small screen that made Andy Griffith a beloved household name. His portrayal of nurturing, wise, yet folksy Sheriff Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show endeared him to fans nationwide. His clever, crime-solving, downhome, hot dog eating big-city lawyer, Ben Matlock, on Matlock kept fans entertained for nine years from 1986 to 1995, and still enjoyed and beloved today by INSP fans.

Andy Griffith has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and an 11-mile stretch of highway that runs through Mount Airy, North Carolina bears his name. In 1991, Andy was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame

Always the Musician

Over the years, Andy produced numerous gospel music and comedy recordings. He was a Country Gospel Music Hall of fame inductee in 1999, won a Grammy for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel album in 1997 and was a Christian Music Hall of Fame inductee in 2007.

Red Carpet to the White House

In 2005, President George W. Bush awarded Andy Griffith with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for “demonstrating the finest qualities of our country” and “memorable performances that have brought joy to millions of Americans of all ages.”

A Life Well-Lived

Andy Griffith died at age 86 on July 3rd, 2012 at his home in Manteo, Roanoke Island, North Carolina. At the time of his death, Andy’s third wife, former teacher and actress, Cindi Griffith said, “Andy was a person of incredibly strong Christian faith and was prepared for the day he would be called Home to his Lord.”

Fashion Statement

In 1991, the same year he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, Andy Griffith received another, rather dubious, honor: a place on a Worst Dressed List.

“I deserve worst dressed – both as Andy Griffith and as the character I play. Away from the set, I only wear Levi’s jeans and Lands’ End shirts and tennis shoes. And for six seasons on ‘Matlock,’ I’ve been wearing the same rumpled gray suit,” he said, upon learning of his “award.”