As a major Hollywood star, Andy Griffith appeared to live a perfect life. But in reality, he struggled with family turmoil throughout most of his adulthood. And after his son died in 1996, he never fully recovered.
In an interview with Closer, Andy’s daughter, Dixie Griffith, remembered the classic TV star as “an absolutely great dad.” However, his marital issues sometimes overshadowed that.
Dixie and her brother Andy Samuel Jr. are Andy’s adoptive children whom he shared with his first wife, Barbara Edwards. The couple spent 23 years together, but halfway through the relationship, they began having troubles that led to constant fights and several extramarital affairs.
In the book Andy & Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, author Daniel de Visé shared that Andy “could be a handful” as a husband. And in the later years of his marriage with Edwards, they both began drinking too much, which caused more fights. The two ended up calling it quits in 1972.
But all through the drama, Dixie said that her father always made it a priority to spend quality time with his kids. And he valued their bond above all else. So when Andy Jr. died, it affected Andy “on a very deep level.”
Andy Griffith and His Son Were Estranged
As a teenager and adult, Andy Jr. was heavily involved with drugs. And he found himself in legal trouble due to addiction and other criminal dealings often. When the issues began, Andy paid for him to go to rehab twice, and in both instances, he failed to stay clean. Eventually, the actor realized that he had to let his son hit rock bottom. Dixie continued trying to help her brother much longer. But she also cut him off after too many failed attempts.
When Andy Jr. died at 38, the official cause of death was alcoholism. At the time, he and his father had been estranged for years. And the actor couldn’t help but wonder if his volatile marriage had set his son on the path to self-destruction.
“My brother had some troubles,” Dixie admitted. “But it wasn’t my dad’s fault.”
Andy Jr.’s passing came just as Matlock was wrapping up its 9th and final season. And because of the circumstances and Andy Griffith’s deeply private lifestyle, he did not attend the funeral.
“He thought there would be too many people there, too many magazines and cameras,” she added.
Unsurprisingly, Andy never once spoke of the death publically. And Dixie said the only things that got him through his grief were his faith, his wife, Cindi Knight, and his family.