Television icon Andy Griffith, known to generations as the star of The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock, has died at age 86, a friend told WITN News in North Carolina. An emergency medical crew responded to a call from the actor’s home in Dare County early this morning.
As the sheriff of the fictional town known as Mayberry, Griffith became one of TV’s most beloved characters in the show that carried his name, which ran from 1960-1968. Future film director Ron Howard played Griffith’s young son, Opie.
In the Eighties, Griffith returned to prominence as the gentlemanly lawyer Ben Matlock, which earned him a People’s Choice award in 1987.
Before his television career, Griffith made his screen acting debut in Elia Kazan’s 1957 classic, A Face in the Crowd, in which he portrayed a country boy who schemes his way onto television and into politics. The role stood in sharp contrast to the actor’s later image. His first break in show business came as a monologist: a comic 1953 spoken-word single called “What It Was, Was Football” was a surprise hit that reached Number Nine on the charts. In 2008, Griffith appeared in Brad Paisley’s video for “Waitin’ on a Woman.”
Griffith was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2005.