On This Day: Andy Griffith Dies at Age of 86 in 2012

by Joe Rutland

Television lost one of its biggest stars on this day in 2012 when Andy Griffith died at 86 years old at his home in North Carolina.

Griffith died in Manteo, N.C., and he was a native of the state as Andy Griffith was born in Mount Airy, N.C. That city would become a backdrop to forming Mayberry, the small town where Griffith based “The Andy Griffith Show.”

“Andy was a person of incredibly strong Christian faith and was prepared for the day he would be called Home to his Lord,” Griffith’s third wife, Cindi, said in a statement according to NBC News. “He is the love of my life, my constant companion, my partner, and my best friend. I cannot imagine life without Andy, but I take comfort and strength in God’s Grace and in the knowledge that Andy is at peace and with God.”

In looking at his body of work, it’s apparent that he was quite a varied performer. He played Sheriff Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” for eight seasons. After a few years away from a steady TV series, Griffith played defense attorney Ben Matlock on “Matlock” for nine seasons.

Andy Griffith Gets TV Break Thanks To Comedian Danny Thomas

Comedian Danny Thomas and executive producer Sheldon Leonard saw Andy Griffith. They decided to put the pilot episode of his sitcom on Thomas’ ABC sitcom. It clicked with the viewers and would become its own series starring Griffith, Don Knotts, Ron Howard, and Frances Bavier.

His career, though, receives a major break as Capitol Records releases “What It Was, Was Football.” Griffith performs this routine about a person attending his first football game. The record sales go so well that it leads to Griffith getting spots on TV variety shows and stage plays.

Two movies stand out in the Andy Griffith resume’ of work. First, he portrays Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes in “A Face in the Crowd.” Second, he plays Will Stockdale in the film “No Time for Sergeants.” Andy Griffith plays the Stockdale role on stage, too. Both roles are quite different for Griffith fans. Rhodes goes from country bumpkin’ to full-blown maniac; Stockdale is a simple-minded soldier who gets into different situations.

Obviously, “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Matlock” were two different types of TV shows. They, however, have one thing in common: Griffith gets involved in them. For his career, Andy Griffith never won an Emmy Award in his TV shows. He joins the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1991. In 2005, President George W. Bush awarded Griffith with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He did win a Grammy Award, too, for a Gospel album.

Griffith was married three times. He was the father of two children.