US TV Legend Andy Griffith Dead at 86

Posted July 3rd, 2012 at 4:10 pm (UTC-5)
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American actor Andy Griffith, unforgettable as the small-town sheriff in the 1960s television series The Andy Griffith Show, has died at the age of 86.

The sheriff of Dare County, North Carolina issued a statement from Griffith's family confirming his death Tuesday on Roanoke Island.

The North Carolina born Griffith began his career as a high school music teacher. He later moved to New York, where he recorded a comedy monologue of a country boy describing his first football game. The record became a hit and led to roles on Broadway and the movies.

He used his southern hometown as the model for the 1960 television comedy series, The Andy Griffith Show. Griffith played Sheriff Andy Taylor — an earthy small town officer raising his son with the help of his matronly Aunt Bee and his nervous excitable deputy Barney Fife, who was only allowed to carry an unloaded gun.

At a time of student protests, assassinations, and racial tension, the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina was an oasis of sanity and simplicity for millions of U.S. television viewers.

The town's only criminal was Otis, the drunk who let himself in and out of jail with a key provided by the sheriff. When a true lawbreaker ventured into Mayberry, Sheriff Taylor always outwitted him with common sense and one of Aunt Bee's picnic baskets.

The Andy Griffith Show ended its run in 1968 when it was the top-rated American television show. But it has been rerun ever since, making fans out of later generations.

Griffith later played another popular TV character, Matlock, a country-bred Harvard-educated lawyer. That series ran from 1986 until 1997.

Griffith was also a Grammy Award-winning Southern-gospel singer. Former President George W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

President Barack Obama calls Griffith a performer of extraordinary talent whose characters warmed the hearts of Americans everywhere.