Heroes of the Faith: Andy Griffith

Andy Griffith is known for his down home, good clean humor on his shows The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock. However, he was also a gospel singer.

Andy Samuel Griffith was born on June 1, 1926 in Mount Airy, North Carolina. He was the only child of Carl Lee and Geneva Nunn Griffith. He came from humble beginnings, but from a young age a love of music was instilled in him.

Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor

In high school, he became involved in the drama program at Mount Airy High School. The pastor at Grace Moravian Church taught him to play the trombone and nurtured his love of music. At one time he considered becoming a Moravian preacher.

He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and appeared in The Lost Colony play for several years. While a student he joined Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, a national social music fraternity for men. In 1949, he graduated with a Bachelor of Music Degree. He then taught music and drama for a few years at a nearby high school.

On August 22, 1949, he married Barbara Bray Edwards. They would adopt two children.

Andy Griffith and Don Knotts

He began his early career delivering monologues such as What It Was, Was Football. This monologue was released in 1953 and hit the charts the following year.

In 1955, he stared in the play No Time for Sergeants. He was nominated for a Tony Award and won the 1956 Theatre World Award. He reprised the role in 1958 for the film version, where he met and became friends with Don Knotts.

In 1957, he made his film debut in A Face in the Crowd.

In 1960, he appeared on Make Room for Daddy staring Danny Thomas, as a county sheriff. The episode a backdoor pilot for The Andy Griffith Show, which premiered in September 1960. His longtime friends, Don Knotts, stared as his comedic foil and Deputy, Barney Fife. He left the show in 1968 for a movie career, although he appeared in the first episode of the spin off, Mayberry R.F.D.

Andy Griffith as Ben Matlock

In 1971, he stared in The New Andy Griffith Show but it was short lived. This was one of a handful of short lived TV shows he attempted. He also made guest appearances on a variety of other shows including Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Here’s Lucy, Fantasy Island and Hawaii Five-O. During the 1970s, he also made a variety of films for TV, often playing the heavy.

In 1972, he divorced his wife, Barbara, and the following year married a Greek actress, Solica Cassuto. Their marriage lasted eight years. He married Cindi Knight on April 12, 1983. That same month he was diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome and could not walk for seven months because of paralysis from the knees down.

In 1986, he reunited with his Andy Griffith family for Return to Mayberry.
The returned to television as Ben Matlock that same year, when he portrayed the Atlanta lawyer. The show Matlock ran for nine years, ending in 1995.

Andy Griffith

Music was a huge part of his career and he often incorporated music into episodes of both of his fames TV shows. He also sung in other roles and released several albums of country and gospel tunes. In 1997 he won a Grammy Award for his album I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns.

Andy Griffith died at his home in Manteo {Dare County, North Carolina} on July 3, 2012. He was buried in the Griffith family cemetery.

He received a number of honors including TV Hall of Fame, N.C. Music Hall of Fame, Christian Music Hall of Fame, Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There is also a stretch of Hwy 52 passing through Mount Airy named the Andy Griffith Parkway and an Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy, N.C.

His love for music, God, and homespun humor still live on through the legacies left behind in The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock.

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