Iconic TV actor Andy Griffith is best remembered for playing Andy Taylor, sheriff of Mayberry, on the classic TV show The Andy Griffith Show. The show turned Griffith into a household name and ran for eight popular seasons. In the show, his son was Opie Taylor, played by child star turned famed filmmaker, Ron Howard.
But behind the scenes, Griffith was a father in real life. He married his first wife, Barbara Bray Edwards, in 1949. The couple adopted two children. Andy Samuel Griffith Jr. was born in 1957 and Griffith adopted him the following year. Dixie Nann Griffith was born in 1960 and also adopted shortly after.
Andy Jr., better known in his family as Sam, lived a tragically short life filled with turmoil. He married his wife Renne Griffith in 1992, but the couple had their troubles. In 1992, Sam was arrested and sentenced to three years probation after a domestic dispute. Shortly after, Renee had a miscarriage.
Sam died in 1996 at the age of 37 after a long battle with alcohol addiction. Andy did not attend his son’s funeral but was heartbroken over his passing. Dixie reflected on her brother’s passing in an interview with Closer in 2018.
“My brother had some troubles, but it wasn’t my dad’s fault,” Dixie said. “It affected my dad on a very, very deep level. I went to my brother’s funeral service, but my dad wasn’t able to go. There would be too many magazines and cameras, and it just wasn’t a good place for him to be.”
Andy’s children were mostly kept out of the spotlight. The family patriarch suffered his own health battles until succumbing to a heart attack in 2012. He was 86. By that time, he was married to his third wife, Cindi Knight. But the star never had additional children in his subsequent marriages.
Dixie did dip her twos into the acting realm. She worked as an apprentice on two of Andy’s TV films. But she ultimately chose to stay away from the business.
“I could have been on the producer’s roster. I chose not to,” Dixie told the Denver Post in July 2012. “Same goes for growing up. I didn’t grow up in the spotlight. Of course, this was before people hid in the bushes outside your door and there were cameras everywhere. My dad was fiercely protective of us. I respected his privacy all my life. I have kept a pretty low profile, which I still plan on doing.”
When Andy wasn’t busy on the set of his popular TV show, he was spending time with his family. Dixie remembers spending their summers in North Carolina where they’d play volleyball and go water skiing. She said her father was always ready to stop what he was doing so that he could play with his daughter.
“He had a very strong will to live and to enjoy his life,” Dixie said. “And he did enjoy his life. One of his favorite things to say, when I’d share news of the girls, was, ‘Well, isn’t that grand!’”