Beloved actor, singer and story teller Andy Griffith passed away today at 86. Several generations have grown up watching Sheriff Andy Taylor solve small-town crime and family disputes with humor and compassion on "The Andy Griffith Show" starting in the 1960s. The popular sitcom has remained on the air since then through reruns.
Much of the storyline of "The Andy Griffith Show" was based upon Griffith's childhood growing up in rural North Caroline in a small town called Mt. Airy. Many of the names of both people and places came from Mt. Airy and thememories of a boy who at one time planned to be a minister.
Born Andrew Samuel Griffith on June 1, 1926, he developed an interest in music, encouraged and taught by a Moravian minister. Griffith went to college as a pre-ministerial student with a major in sociology. He soon discovered his passion was music, however, and he changed his major.
He discovered his skills as a storyteller and comedian outweighed his musical talents and he ended up in New York performing on shows like "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Steve Allen Show" as well as in Broadway plays like "No Time for Sergeants" and the musical "Destry Rides Again."
After "The Andy Griffith Show," Griffith starred in "The New Andy Griffith Show" for one year and the "Return to Mayberry" movie. He reinvented himself as "Matlock" in 1986, a role he would play until 1995.
While Griffith continued acting until shortly before his death, he never forgot about his music roots. In 1996, Griffith recorded "I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns," saying, "A t the ripe age of 69, 'Mr. Jesus' let me become a singer again. So that's full circle and I hope those who listen to this record, I Love to Tell the Story, will enjoy it and be blessed by it as much as we who played and sang on it were."
Griffith received a Grammy Award for best Southern, country or bluegrass gospel album for "I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns," in 1997 and went on to record other gospel albums.
I had the opportunity to meet Andy Griffith in 2003 at a BMI reception in his honor where I presented him with a copy of Christian Activities with Griffith on the cover. I was also able to attend Griffith's performance on the Grand Ole Opry and to attend the dedication of the Andy Griffith Parkway in Mt. Airy where Griffith spoke. I found him to be an inspiring role model in spite of the flaws he openly acknowledged and worked hard to overcome.
In a statement, his wife Cindi Griffith said:
“Andy was a person of incredibly strong Christian faith and was prepared for the day he would be called Home to his Lord. He is the love of my life, my constant companion, my partner, and my best friend. I cannot imagine life without Andy, but I take comfort and strength in God’s Grace and in the knowledge that Andy is at peace and with God.”
An actor, singer, story teller and role model for several generations, the passing of Andy Griffith following the recent deaths of George "Goober" Lindsey and Doug Dillard and has signaled the closing of an era. "The Andy Griffith Show" celebrates a time when life was simpler, when children grew up with prayer in the school and saying the Pledge of Allegiance in class and roamed the countryside without fear.
Andy Griffith has gone to a better place, but the legacy of "The Andy Griffith Show" lives on to remind us of a simpler time when morals still meant something and when wholesome comedy kept us laughing. I wish life was like it was in Mayberry.