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For the generations who grew up with Andy Griffith's character Sheriff Andy Taylor on his namesake "The Andy Griffith Show," the actor and the character seemed identical.

Griffith, who set the series in a fictional town based on his hometown of Mount Airy, N.C., died Tuesday at his coastal home according to Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie in a statement to the Associated Press.

"Mr. Griffith passed away this morning at his home peacefully and has been laid to rest on his beloved Roanoke Island," Doughtie said.

In a 2007 AP interview, Griffith described himself as having the qualities of one of his last roles, cranky diner owner Joe in "Waitress," and also his character in the 1957 movie "A Face in the Crowd" directed Elia Kazan.

"No Time for Sergeants," which he starred in on Broadway, and later released as a 1958 film, cast Griffith as a draftee in the Air Force plucked from rural America.

He starred as the title character in "Matlock" from 1986 to 1995.

As for "The Andy Griffith Show," which aired on CBS from 1960 to 1968, many people forget it began as a "spin-off" from an episode of comedian Danny Thomas' show "Make Room for Daddy."

In a 1960 episode called "Danny Thomas Meets Andy Griffth," Griffith played his Sheriff Taylor (with a bit more edge) for the plot involving a speeding Danny Williams pulled over in Mayberry, with his family also in car, and made to appear before the Justice of the Peace, who happens to also be Griffith. A young Ron Howard also appears briefly as his Opie character, and actress Frances Bavier, who played Aunt Bee, also drops by the jail.

Friend and co-star Don Knotts died in 2006 at 81 and George Lindsey, who played gas station attendant Goober, died in May at age 83.

Jim Nabors, 82, who co-starred on the series as Gomer Pyle, said Tuesday, from his home in Honolulu, he was saddened to hear the news of Griffith's passing.

Griffith and his first wife, Barbara Edwards, had two children, Sam, who died in 1996, and Dixie. His second wife was Solica Cassuto. Both marriages ended in divorce. He married his third wife, Cindi Knight Griffith, in 1983.

I never had the chance to meet or interview Griffith, but think of him at Christmas.

In 2007, he provided the voice of Santa Claus as part on an all-star cast in the big screen animated film "Christmas Is Here Again" starring Shirley Jones' pipes for the voice of Mrs. Claus.

It wasn't Griffith's first time as part of a holiday animated classic tale. He played an animated version of himself for stop-motion animation legends Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass serving as the narrator for the 1976 "Frosty the Snowman's Winter Wonderland," which also starred the distinct voice of the late Academy Award winning actress Shelley Winters as Frosty's bride-to-be Crystal.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

 

 

 

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