Former University of North Carolina President Bill Friday confirmed the passing of his close friend to WITN News.
Griffith became a household name for his portrayal of a small-town sheriff on “The Andy Griffith Show,” which aired from 1960 to 1968. His character, Andy Taylor, was a widower in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C., which was thought to be modeled after Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, N.C. His character encountered daily drama from his sidekick Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts) as well as his young son, Opie (Ron Howard).
The actor went on to star in another long-running TV series: “Matlock.” He played Ben Matlock, a no frills criminal defense lawyer who used his smarts to get people to confess in dramatic courtroom scenes. The show aired from 1986 to 1995.
Griffith also appeared in other TV shows — including the original “Hawaii Five-O,” “The Bionic Woman,” “Fantasy Island,” and “Dawson’s Creek” — as well as films.
Outside of acting, Griffith was an accomplished gospel singer who won a Grammy Award in 1997 for his album I Love to Tell the Story — 25 Timeless Hymns.
The actor had health issues through the years. In the 1980s he was diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome, a disorder of the nervous system which caused him to be paralyzed for seven months. In 2000, he underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery. In 2007, he had hip surgery after a fall.
Griffith is survived by his wife Cindi Knight, whom he married in 1983. He was married twice previously, first to Barbara Bray Edwards — the mother of his two children, Dixie Griffith and the late Sam Griffith — and then Greek actress Solica Cassuto.
Andrew Samuel “Andy” Griffith (June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012) was an American actor, director, producer, Grammy Award-winning Southern-gospel singer, and writer. A Tony Award nominee for two roles, he gained prominence in the starring role in director Elia Kazan’s film A Face in the Crowd (1957) before he became better known for his television roles, playing the lead characters in the 1960–1968 situation comedy The Andy Griffith Show and in the 1986–1995 legal drama Matlock. Griffith died on July 3, 2012 at the age of 86.
In 1957 Griffith made his film début, starring in the film A Face in the Crowd
Although he plays a “country boy”, this country boy is manipulative and power-hungry, a drifter who becomes a television host and uses his show as a gateway to political power. Co-starring Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau, Tony Franciosa, and Lee Remick (in her film début as well), the film was directed by Elia Kazan and written by Budd Schulberg.
A 2005 DVD reissue of A Face in the Crowd includes a mini-documentary on the film, with comments from Schulberg and the then surviving cast members Griffith, Franciosa, and Neal. In his interview, Griffith, revered for his wholesome image for decades, reveals a more complex side of himself. He recalls Kazan prepping him to shoot his first scene with Remick’s teenaged baton twirler, who captivates Griffith’s character on a trip to Arkansas. Griffith also expresses his belief that the film was far more popular and respected in more recent decades than it was when originally released.
- Andy and Cleopatra on Capitol Records—T 2066, (1964)
- What it Was, Was Football (as Deacon Andy Griffith) on Capitol Records (1953)
- Just for Laughs (1958)
- Shouts the Blues and Old Timey Songs (1959)
- Somebody Bigger Than You and I (1972)
- American Originals (1993)
- Precious Memories: 33 Timeless Hymns (1995)
- I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns (1996)
- Sings Favorite Old-Time Songs (1997)
- Just as I Am: 30 Favorite Old Time Hymns (1998)
- Wit & Wisdom of Andy Griffith (1998)
- Favorite Old Time Songs (2000)
- Absolutely the Best (2002)
- Back to Back Hits (2003)
- The Christmas Guest (2003)
- Bound for the Promised Land: The Best of Andy Griffith Hymns (2005)
- The Collection (2005)
- Pickin’ and Grinnin’: The Best of Andy Griffith (2005)
- A Face in the Crowd (1957)
- No Time for Sergeants (1958)
- Onionhead (1958)
- The Second Time Around (1961)
- Angel in My Pocket (1969)
- Hearts of the West (1975)
- Rustlers’ Rhapsody (1985)
- Spy Hard (1996)
- Daddy and Them (2001)
- The Very First Noel (2006) (voice)
- Waitress (2007)
- Christmas Is Here Again (2007) (voice)
- Play the Game (2008)
- Make Room For Daddy (1960; Andy and Opie Taylor were first introduced in season seven)
- The Andy Griffith Show (1960–1968)
- The Headmaster (1970–1971)
- The New Andy Griffith Show (1971; cancelled after 13 episodes)
- The Strangers In 7A (1972)
- Go Ask Alice (1973)
- Pray for the Wildcats (1974)
- Winter Kill (1974)
- Savages (1974)
- Adams of Eagle Lake (1975; cancelled after two episodes)
- Street Killing (1976)
- Six Characters in Search of an Author (1976)
- Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (1976) (voice)
- Washington: Behind Closed Doors (1977)
- The Girl in the Empty Grave (1977)
- Deadly Game (1977)
- Centennial (1978; miniseries)
- Salvage 1 (1979; cancelled after 20 episodes)
- From Here to Eternity (1979; miniseries)
- Roots: The Next Generations (1979; miniseries)
- The Yeagers (1980; cancelled after two episodes)
- Murder in Texas (1981)
- For Lovers Only (1982)
- Murder in Coweta County (1983)
- The Demon Murder Case (1983)
- Fatal Vision (1984) (miniseries)
- Crime of Innocence (1985)
- Return to Mayberry (1986)
- Matlock (1986–1995)
- Under the Influence (1986)
- The Gift of Love (1994)
- Gramps (1995)
- Scattering Dad (1998)
- A Holiday Romance (1999)