Betty Lynn, Who Played Thelma Lou on ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ Dies at 95

by Leanne Stahulak
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At 95 years old, actress Betty Lynn passed away on Saturday, Oct. 16. She famously played opposite Don Knotts on “The Andy Griffith Show” as his girlfriend, Thelma Lou.

The Andy Griffith Museum out of Mount Airy, North Carolina, broke the news earlier today, per The Hollywood Reporter. The museum said she “died peacefully” after a “brief illness” yesterday.

Lynn moved to the birthplace of Andy Griffith in 2006, living in a retirement home there right before her death. She appeared at the museum multiple times over the years to sign autographs and interact with fans of the show.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Betty Lynn joined “The Andy Griffith” show in 1961, right at the end of Season 1. She never had a contract with the show, just accepting $500 for each of the 26 episodes she starred in. Eventually, when Knotts left the show to focus on his film career, the writers wrote Lynn out of it too.

People thought that would be the last they’d see of Betty Lynn on “The Andy Griffith Show.” But she reappeared in the 1986 NBC telefilm “Return to Mayberry.” Knotts’ character Barney and Lynn’s Thelma Lou did just that. By the end of the film, they were married.

Betty Lynn’s Impressive Career in TV, Film, and Entertainment

Born on Aug. 29, 1926, in Kansas City, Missouri, Betty Lynn comes from an entertainment-minded family. Her mother sang with the Chicago Opera and quickly enrolled 5-year-old Lynn in the Kansas City Conservatory of Music. By the time she was a teenager, Lynn was singing in supper clubs and on the radio.

When she hit 18, Lynn headed to New York to join the United Service Organization (USO). She traveled overseas to perform for the troops in China, India, and Burma. Eight months later, Lynn headed back to New York and appeared in an off-Broadway show called “Park Avenue.”

If not for that one show, she might not have been noticed by a talent agent from 20th Century Fox. Lynn quickly signed with the studio and moved to L.A. to make her film debut with “Sitting Pretty” in 1948.

Betty Lynn starred in dozens of movies and TV shows after that. You might recognize her from “June Bride,” “Mother is a Freshman,” “Father was a Fullback,” and “Cheaper By the Dozen” from the 1940 and 50s. After her 1951 appearance in “Payment on Demand,” Lynn started turning more to television. She traveled frequently between New York and L.A. to appear on live TV shows.

Lynn starred alongside some of Hollywood’s greatest, including Clifton Webb, Bette Davis, Maureen O’Hara, Loretta Young, and Robert Montgomery.

Per the Andy Griffith Museum, a private burial service will take place in Culver City, with a memorial service to follow.

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