‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Betty Lynn Always Loved Interacting with Fans in Real Life Mayberry

by Suzanne Halliburton

We’re so nostalgic for all things The Andy Griffith Show as we honor the life of Betty Lynn, who played sweet Thelma Lou.

Lynn died Saturday in Culver City, Calif. She was 95. Officials with the Andy Griffith Museum issued a statement confirming Lynn’s death, saying that she passed away after a brief illness.

She played Barney Fife’s red-headed, freckle-faced girlfriend on The Andy Griffith Show, spending 26 episodes as the character on the iconic comedy. When Don Knotts left the cast in 1966, that ended Thelma Lou, too.

And she loved her life on The Andy Griffith Show so much that she moved to Mt. Airy, N.C. That was Griffith’s hometown and the inspiration for Mayberry.

The Miami Herald, in a profile of Lynn from 2016, reported that she moved to North Carolina from California in 2006. She loved the breezy, small-town life. And the town loved her as if she was born and raised there. When Lynn turned 90, the town celebrated her with a special presentation and a screening of her favorite movie. That was June Bride, which premiered in 1948.

Lynn told the Miami Herald that she was asked to read for a part on The Andy Griffith Show in 1960.

“I’d only seen it twice,” Lynn told the Herald, “but I thought it was hilarious.” As Thelma Lou, she had to deal with quirky Barney Fife, Sheriff Andy Taylor’s only deputy.

The two had an on-again, off-again type of relationship. In her last episode, Barney returned to The Andy Griffith Show for a reunion. That’s when he discovered Thelma Lou had gotten married.

However, there was a happy ending to her relationship with Barney, but it took a while to get there. The Andy Griffith Show had a reunion movie in 1986. It was called Return to Mayberry. And it featured the wedding of Barney and Thelma Lou.

“Once we got there to film the movie, everything fell right into place,” Lynn said in an interview. “The spark was still there.”

The reunion movie served as The Andy Griffith Show finale. There were 16 characters who returned for the TV movie, including Gomer and Goober Pyle, along with Ernest T Bass. Otis, the town drunk, was clean and sober and driver of an ice cream truck. The only major character who didn’t make the reunion was Aunt Bee, played by Francis Bavier. The show explained that Aunt Bee died. Bavier passed away in 1989.

Lynn must’ve enjoyed the quiet pace of Mount Airy. The county is home to about 10,000 people. And it still loves being part of the inspiration behind The Andy Griffith Show. The town hosts Mayberry Days each year. This year’s festival happened late last month.

And Lynn appeared at one of these Mayberry Days years ago. It was when she decided to move there, permanently.