North Carolina’s favorite “Favorite Son,” Andy Griffith, died today at his home on Roanoke Island in Dare County, at the age of 86. He was born in Mount Airy, NC (which fans say was the model for “Mayberry,” though Griffith always denied it), near Pilot Mountain (aka, “Mount Pilot”).
He was a proud alumnus of the University of North Carolina (major: Music), where he became active with the prestigious theater company The Carolina Playmakers. He lovingly described Chapel Hill as “one huge park” where the “sun is shining brilliantly and all the earth is blossoming.” He never lost his love for UNC, having his alter ego Sheriff Taylor tell Opie, his character’s son, that “if he wanted to go to the University of North Carolina, he had to study hard!” (The picture at right shows him at about the time he was at Carolina.)
After UNC but before stardom, he taught English at Goldsboro High School, where his students included Carl Kasell, later of NPR fame. He spent several years as a comedian, making the classic comedy monologue recordings What It Was Was Football, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet. If you’ve never listened to them, do yourself a favor and seek them out! (Videos below.)
When The Danny Thomas Show spun off The Andy Griffith Show, it became the platform that caused him to become one of America’s most beloved television (and, lest we forget, film) actors of all time.
Andy Griffith donated all of the papers, scripts, and memorabilia from his acting days to the Southern Collection of the University of North Carolina.
He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 from President George W. Bush.
We already miss you, Andy!
What It Was Was Football
Romeo and Juliet