‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Don Knotts Died On This Day in 2006

by Emily Morgan
(Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Today in 2006, Don Knotts, the beloved actor best known for playing Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show,” died at 81-years-old.

Knotts passed away after battling lung cancer at UCLA Medical Center, his longtime manager Sherwin Bash told the Los Angeles Times

Andy Griffith, who passed away six years later, was one of the last people to see him before he died. 

Jesse Donald Knotts was born on July 21, 1924, in Morgantown, West Virginia. Knotts showed an interest in comedy and ventriloquism at an early age and went to New York in the 1940s to start a career in entertainment. 

After his failed attempt, he went back to study at West Virginia University. Afterward, he served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946 and received several medals for his service during World War II. He went back to West Virginia and moved back to New York after marrying his first wife, Kay Metz.

Don Knotts Remembered For Comedy, Loveable Roles

After being back in New York, his career finally started to take off, first on radio and then on the stage when producers cast him in the production, No Time for Sergeants in 1955. 

When the play transitioned to the movies in 1958, Knotts worked with Griffith for the first time. In 1960, the pair joined forces for “The Andy Griffith Show,” which ran until 1968. His time on the beloved show earned him five Emmys for “Best Supporting Actor in a Television Comedy.”

During the 1960s, Knotts also appeared on the big screen when he starred in The Incredible Mr. Limpet, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Reluctant Astronaut, The Shakiest Gun in the West, and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken

In 1979, Knotts found his second-biggest TV role when casting recruited him as Ralph Furley on “Three’s Company.” Knotts stayed on the show until it ended its run in 1984.

Knotts continued acting almost right up until he died. He voiced the Turkey Mayor in the Disney animated film Chicken Little. He also appeared in the “That ’70s Show” episode “Stone Cold Crazy” and voiced a character in two “Fatherhood” episodes. His final role was Sniffer in Air Buddies, which was released posthumously in 2006.

He was also married three times and survived by two children, including actress Karen Knotts.