DARE COUNTY, N.C. -- Television star Andy Griffith died Tuesday at his home in Mateo, North Carolina. He was 86.
Griffith died about 7 a.m. at his coastal home, Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie said in a statement.
Griffith's career spanned more than a half-century on stage, film and television, but he would always be best known as Sheriff Andy Taylor in the "The Andy Griffith Show "set in a North Carolina town not too different from Griffith's own hometown of Mount Airy.
Griffith also starred in "Matlock" which aired in 1986. Griffith was honored with a Walk of Fame Star in January 2000.
He and his first wife, Barbara Edwards, had two children, Sam, who died in 1996, and Dixie. His second wife was Solica Cassuto. Both marriages ended in divorce. He married his third wife, Cindi Knight Griffith, in 1983.
Griffith's career included stints on Broadway, notably "No Time for Sergeants"; movies such as Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd"; and records.
He was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts Hall of Fame in 1992 and in 2005, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the country's highest civilian honors.
“North Carolina has lost its favorite son," said North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue. "In an increasingly complicated world, we all yearn for the days of Mayberry. We all will miss Andy, and I will dearly miss my friend.”
Deep Tar Heel roots
Griffith was born in Mount Airy on June 1, 1926, son of Carl and Geneva Griffith. He took a liking to music and learned to play the trombone at 16.
Despite a so-so academic record, he was industrious, earning enough money sweeping the high school after classes to buy a bass horn and guitar.
He went on to UNC Chapel Hill and majored in music, taking five years to get his degree in 1949. He taught school for three years in Goldsboro.
Lanky and handsome, his head thick with wavy black hair, he found summer work at the outdoor drama “The Lost Colony” in Manteo. Griffith played Sir Walter Raleigh from 1949 to 1953 and also appeared on the dinner club circuit as comedian and singer.
Motoring one evening down the then-pastoral N.C. 54 from Chapel Hill to a 1953 appearance in Raleigh, Griffith was struck by an inspiration that would ignite his career.
He dreamed up a comic monologue about a country bumpkin mystified by a game “where you try to run across a cow pasture without getting hit or stepping in something.”
It got big laughs and Griffith spun to fame on a phonograph needle.
“What It Was Was Football” sold a million copies. It got him on Ed Sullivan. And it established Griffith as a southern comedic voice, leading to a role as the hillbilly recruit in the TV production of “No Time for Sergeants” and then the same role on Broadway, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award.