‘The Andy Griffith Show’: ‘Barney Fife’ Actor Don Knotts Died on the Day and at Same Age as a ‘Gunsmoke’ Star

by Atlanta Northcutt
L to R: Dennis Weaver, Don Knotts, and Andy Griffith (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

February 24, 2006, is a hard day for fans of the classic shows The Andy Griffith Show and Gunsmoke. Two legendary actors, Don Knotts and Dennis Weaver, who brought joy and laughter to audiences during their long careers passed away on this same day.

There is the unforgettable Don Knotts, who played Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show. We also remember the great Dennis Weaver of Gunsmoke, who’s best recognized as Chester Goode from the series. While off-screen, they shared joy, friendship, and their unique personalities to entertain and garner laughs from cast-mates and crew members.

Today, we salute Deputy Chester Goode and Deputy Barney Fife, and we honor the actors who flawlessly played their characters.

We Salute Don Knotts’ Comedian Skills as Dep. Barney Fife

Don Knotts played the famous role of the goofy, yet lovable Deputy Barney Fife on the wholesome TV series The Andy Griffith Show. Knotts’ exceptional acting and comedic talents played a huge part in making The Andy Griffith Show such a beloved, family-friendly TV series.

What Deputy Barney Fife lacks in brains and common sense, he makes up for with his big heart, authentic care, and loyalty to his friend and boss Sheriff Andy Griffith.

It’s hard to even imagine the show without Don Knotts‘ perfect portrayal of such an unforgettable character as Barney Fife.

However, he departed the show after the fifth season due to his belief that The Andy Griffith Show was truly coming to an end at that point. The producers changed their minds and decided to push forward and continue filming for a few more seasons. Sadly, Knotts had already accepted another role he’d been offered while he still believed the show was over.

Knotts left The Andy Griffith Show after performing alongside his friend and co-star for five years. The comedian was sure to entertain the calm, reserved, and level-headed Andy Griffith, who is the sheriff of the fictional sleepy, small town of Mayberry, North Carolina. The most hysterical and memorial moments most likely include good ole’ Knotts.

His Unforgettable Role On “The Andy Griffith Show”

The popular show ran on CBS from 1960 to 1968 for a total of eight seasons. The Andy Griffith Show touched so many viewers due to its exceptional storylines, authentic camaraderie between Griffith and Knotts, the chemistry shared by the entire cast, and the fact that the use of comedy and community always closed the half-hour program with a happy ending. Many of these episodes were used to teach important life lessons.

Don continued acting, making appearances in TV shows and movies. Even after his diagnosis with lung cancer and while fighting the tough battle, he continued to appear onscreen and do what he loved most, making people laugh up until his death.

Don Knotts’ Never Quit Providing Laughter and Joy

In an interview with Closer Weekly, Don’s daughter, Karen, told a story about her father still being an authentic comedian cracking jokes and making people laugh up to his last breath. Karen explains how some of the things her father was saying were so hilarious that she would have to run out of the hospital room to burst out laughing since she didn’t feel the environment and situation was suitable for laughing.

“I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to be standing there in front of this man, my dearly beloved father, who’s dying, and laughing,” she recalls. “I was telling this story to Howard Storm, who’s a director, and he said, ‘You should have stayed and laughed out loud. That’s what comedians live for!’ He was right; I should have just stood there and blasted out laughing.”

Don Knotts died of lung cancer at the age of 81. The date of his death is Feb. 24, 2006, which is the same as another special actor of that time. According to an interview with the LA Times, Sherwin Bash, who is Don’s longtime manager said the wonderful Barney Fife passed away at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Bash stated that one of Knotts ‘ last visitors before his death was one of Don’s dearest friends, who is, of course, Andy Griffith. Griffith followed his friend when he passed away six years later.

(L-R) Actors Dennis Weaver and Don Knotts.
(Photo by John Paschal/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

Dennis Weaver – A Western Legend and “Gunsmoke” Star

Dennis Weaver is known for his large roles in the TV Western series Gunsmoke where he starred as Deputy Chester Goode, who aided Marshal Matt Dillon played by James Arness. Weaver then took on another Western role in the TV series McCloud.

Dennis has taken on many roles during his time as a successful actor. His talents are undeniable. If there are any questions regarding his abilities, just look at the many Emmy nominations and wins for his portrayal of characters on famous TV series and films.

Success After “Gunsmoke” By Acting in “McCloud”

His favorite role was playing Sam McCloud on the show McCloud, of course. He brought his cowboy lifestyle to New York while rocking a cowboy hat and riding his horse throughout the busy streets, making many of those city-folks take a second look. Of course, he was a country boy who fought criminals and stood for justice. Dennis Weaver received two Emmy nods for his performance in the country-fighting, kicking-butt TV show.

Dennis Weaver developed a love for making a change and bettering the lives of others. He may have played a hero on-screen, but while the cameras weren’t rolling, he truly was a hero. He focused on making a difference in many people’s lives.

Weaver became passionate about activism in protecting the environment, nature, and working on ending world hunger. He received the privilege of becoming the president of the prestigious Screen Actors Guild. Weaver served for two years from 1973 to 1975.

A Man With A Message To Leave As His Legacy

Although he was president of the Screen Actors Guild, being president of Love Is Feeding Everyone (LIFE), was his true passion and meant the most to the giving, kind man. The organization was giving out approximately 150,000 meals each week to the hungry and suffering people in Los Angeles. As though that’s not enough, he founded the Institute of Economics. The organization seeks answers and resolutions to important economic and environmental issues.

“Earthship” was created due to Dennis Weaver’s extreme care for the environment. It is a solar-powered residence Weaver and his wife Gerry created and built with old tires and recycled cans. The home is located in Colorado.

On February 24, 2006, the lover of nature and extreme activist for the preservation of nature lost his battle with cancer at the age of 81.

On the same day as Knotts’ death, the veteran Western star passed away in the comfort of his home in Colorado. When Dennis Weaver passed away, the place of his death is similar to that of a true cowboy.

Weaver died while surrounded by mountains, nature, a quiet calm, and his close family. If he must have died, I believe his home is the perfect place for Weaver to take his last breath.