Return to Mayberry: Andy Griffith Returns Home (2002)

The 50th anniversary of “The Andy Griffith Show” was October 2010
In honor of in honor of the 50th anniversary of “The Andy Griffith Show,” we present this look back at the dedication of the Andy Griffith Parkway in October of 2002.
After a 45 year absence from the small North Carolina town where he grew up, singer, actor and story-teller Andy Griffith returned home. Griffith, 76 and a resident of Manteo, NC, was the honored guest at a ceremony to dedicate a 10-mile stretch of U.S. 52 as the Andy Griffith Parkway
While he normally avoids public appearances, when his native state calls, Griffith answers. His love of “the old North state” was evident as Griffith braved a chilly, rainy morning to be a part of the event. “We are in a drought and it took Andy Griffith to bring the rains,” quipped N.C. Governor Mike Easley.
Surrounded by his family and fans in a town decorated with “Welcome back Cindi and Andy Griffith” signs, Griffith told the crowd about 25 minutes’ worth of amusing tales. He used the occasion to reminisce about some important kindnesses in his life. He talked about the love, encouragement and Christian roots that came from his parents. His father played an especially important role in young Andy’s live, teaching him the importance of a good work ethic and helping him find his first music teacher, the local Moravian pastor. He fondly recalled his lessons on every horn in the Moravian band, and then his subsequent singing lessons with the same minister which led him to become a ministry student and a church choral director after college. He said he ultimately won a 1996 Grammy Award for his gospel album “I Love to Tell the Story” and noted little did his father know what he had helped start.
He laughingly told about the first time he “got laughs” at his first public performance, standing with his arms behind his back and belting out “Put on Your Old Gray Bonnet” at Rockford Street Elementary School (now the Andy Griffith Playhouse). He recalled the time a teacher liked his humorous story about a rabbit hunt and had him read it to the class, again garnering laughs for the young comic.
He remembered his days on Broadway, his film career and the day he first met Sheldon Leonard to talk about a TV pilot. Griffith said he didn’t like the show’s original premise in which a local yokel sheriff/Justice of the Peace/newspaper editor would tell funny stories about the people who lived in a small Southern town. “We got rid of all that,” he said with a grin. The pilot also got laughs.
After the pilot, a spin-off of “Make Room for Daddy,” aired with Griffith, Frances Bavier and Ronnie Howard, a friend from Griffith’s past called him up. “Don’t you need a deputy?” inquired Don Knotts. Knotts joined the cast and the result was a television show loved by millions which has never been off the air (counting reruns).
A loyal native son, Griffith said he soon began interjecting town names like Charlotte and Raleigh into the fictional Southern town, making the transition from simply someplace in the South to “the old North state.” He finally ended speculation as to whether or not Mt. Airy was the inspiration for the fictional Mayberry. Naming people whose names he used in the show including Beasleys, Gillys, and Emmett Forrest, and listing places such as Snappy Lunch, Mount Pilot and Bannertown which were mentioned on the show, Griffith noted, “People started to say Mayberry was the same as Mount Airy. It sure sounds like it, doesn’t it?”
Griffith recalled the kindness of two businessmen who gave him $1,000 to launch his career and he thanked the Surry Arts Council for continuing the tradition of encouraging the arts in Mt. Airy. Prooving to author Thomas Wolfe and others that you can indeed go home again, Griffith said he planned to not be a stranger to the town that in so many ways helped him become Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry. His speech was full of kindnesses, and the beloved story-teller from Mt. Airy is still getting laughs.
“We are so excited about Andy Griffith’s recognition of the arts as an important part of the community and his excitement about the Andy Griffith
Playhouse and the Surry Arts Council,” says Tanya Rees, Executive Director of the Surry Arts Council. “We hope that this is just the beginning!”
Ann L. Vaughn, Executive Director of the Visitors Center concurs, “It definitely was the most significant event to happen in this town and area in decades…and I must say that it is THE highlight of my career here as director of the Visitors Center.”
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————————–Related Links & Stories:
Andy Griffith Parkway Dedication
Andy Griffith — Old Wood and Wine
Just As He Is: Andy Sings Gospel
1996 Gospel Grammy Winners
Mayberry Events Calendar
Past Mayberry Articles
Christian Activities Andy Griffith Forum
Christian Activities Mayberry Forum

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From our archives 10/16/02

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