The death of Andy Griffith is for many, the passing of a television icon.
For at least one Scotland County man, Griffith’s death also closes a chapter on a golden age of entertainment.
The film and television star died Tuesday morning at his beachfront home in Manteo. He was 86.
“He was just a heck of a man,” said longtime fan Dewey Lamb of Laurinburg. “I can’t think of an unkind thing about him, not personally or hearsay. I can’t say that it’s a shock that he died - it’s just a sad event that happened.”
Four years ago, Lamb started the local “Shakedown, Shakedown” chapter of the Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club, which averages around 30 local members.
“My parents grew up watching it, I watched it, my daughters and their kids watch it - it’s just Americana is what it is. It’s got good family values - your grandchild or your grandmother can watch the show. Nothing ugly is ever said or mentioned.”
With Griffith’s death, Lamb said, has come the loss of an inimitable quality in entertainment.
“There’s no profanity, no nudity, no bad mouthing - there will never ever be another show like that,” said Lamb. “There is no team of comedy writers who could put the right characters together to make that show - Andy played the straight guy and Barney played off of him, and sometimes the roles were reversed. It’s my all, all-time favorite show. All-time.”
Mayberry, where Griffith spun hometown wisdom with a healthy does of comedy as Sheriff Taylor, was said to be based largely on his memories of growing up in Mount Airy, where Mayberry fixtures such as the Snappy Lunch (still in business) and the Blue Bird Diner operated. He even hinted this was the case in a Mount Airy appearance in 2002.
“People started saying that Mayberry was based on Mount Airy,” he said at the time. “It sure sounds like it, doesn’t it?”
Intensely private, Griffith kept out of the public spotlight when not on the stage, film, or on television. He was born in Mount Airy in 1926, where he cultivated an interest in music, singing and acting.
In 1947, three years after graduating from Mount Airy High School, Griffith was cast in the still-running production of “The Lost Colony” on Roanoke Island. He held several roles in the production, until finally earning the role of Sir Walter Raleigh.
Later Griffith made his name as a comedian, with such classic routines as “What it Was Was Football” and “Romeo and Juliet,” and then moved into movies, where he was cast in what became a break-out role in the 1957 film “A Face in the Crowd.”
Griffith made additional film and television appearances before reaching fame starring as Sheriff Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” from 1960 to 1968, and later portrayed a shrewd Southern lawyer in “Matlock.”
“The Andy Griffith Show” is still one of the most popular syndicated shows, regularly showing on cable television and as local programming in markets throughout the South. “Matlock,” too, makes regular appearances on cable television.
Griffith was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 by President George Bush, for “demonstrating the finest qualities of our country and for a lifetime of memorable performances that have brought joy to millions of Americans of all ages.”
He received a Grammy award in 1997 for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album for “I Love to Tell the Story — 25 Timeless Hymns.”
A December 2011 pool conducted by Public Policy Polling found Griffith was the third most popular person living in North Carolina, after Billy Graham and coach Dean Smith.
A cause of death has not been released. He had been in declining health for more than a decade. He suffered a heart attack in 2000 and underwent quadruple bypass surgery.
“When I found out about it, my wife called me when I was driving,” Lamb said. “She said to pull over on the side of the road, and I’m glad I did.”
The Mount Airy News contributed to this report.