Actor Andy Griffith, a TV icon who entertained generations of viewers, died at age 86 early Tuesday morning.
That news was confirmed by former UNC President Bill Friday, a friend of Griffith, and reported by WITN-TV.
Griffith worked nightclubs and was appearing on Broadway when producers approached him with an idea for a new television series focused on a sheriff in a small town. That idea would become THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, a hit for CBS that premiered in 1960. With co-star Don Knotts, Griffith would endear Sheriff Andy Taylor, Deputy Barney Fife and a host of comic characters in the fictional Mayberry to millions of fans.
Griffith left the show in 1968, when it was renamed to MAYBERRY, R.F.D.. He continued to serve as executive producer of the series until it left the air in 1971.
THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW remains popular in syndication, even more than fifty years after its premiere.
He stayed busy with movie and television projects in the seventies and eighties, but gained new popularity with his portrayal of folksy Southern lawyer Ben Matlock from 1986 until 1995.
President George H.W. Bush presented the actor with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
Griffith was born on June 1, 1926 in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, a town that would forever be fabled as the inspiration for Mayberry. His early career included humorous stories; his “What It Was, Was Football” reached number nine on the charts in 1954. He appeared on television for the first time in an adaptation of the play “No Time for Sergeants” in 1955, and would reprise his role in the 1958 movie, in which he met Knotts. His love of music and singing, on display frequently during the Griffith show, led to several albums, including “I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns,” in 1986, an album that went platinum.
His final television apparance came in the summer of 2010 during an ad campaign for Medicare.