Andy Griffith dead at 86 years old; friends, coworkers recount m - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Andy Griffith dead at 86 years old; friends, coworkers recount memories

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Andy Griffith (Source: IMDB) Andy Griffith (Source: IMDB)
Andy Griffith spotted during filming of 'Matlock' in Wilmington Andy Griffith spotted during filming of 'Matlock' in Wilmington
Griffith received the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2005. (Source: Executive Office of the President of the United States) Griffith received the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2005. (Source: Executive Office of the President of the United States)

MANTEO, NC (WECT/RNN) – Andy Griffith died Tuesday morning in Dare County, according to the sheriff's office. He was 86 years old. Griffith's family said he passed away at his home peacefully.

According to the sheriff's office, Griffith has been laid to rest on his beloved Roanoke Island.

Former UNC President Bill Friday, who is a close friend of the actor, broke the news to WITN earlier in the day.

Griffith was best known for his starring roles in The Andy Griffith Show (1960) and Matlock (1986), which was filmed at Screengems Studios in Wilmington. The town of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show is based on Griffith's hometown of Mt. Airy and characters in the show often reference the "sister city" of Mount Pilot – based on Pilot Mountain.

While his longest and most popular role was Andy Taylor on the Andy Griffith Show, according to IMDB, Griffith said his time on Matlock was his favorite role. Matlock aired a total of 195 episodes across nine seasons - 179 episodes were an hour long, and four were 2-hour episodes.

Griffith's breakout role came in the drama A Face in the Crowd (1957). He also starred in several TV movies and mini-series, including Murder in Texas (his lone Emmy nomination), Roots: The Next Generation and Fatal Vision.

In addition to acting and directing, Griffith created his own production company in 1972, which produced several movies and TV series.

Griffith graduated from UNC in 1949 with a Bachelor's Degree in Music. According to IMDB, he originally went to school to study to be a Moravian preacher before changing his major.

Throughout his career, Griffith was nominated twice for Broadway's Tony Awards. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2005.

Some people who worked with Griffith on Matlock say it feels like just yesterday they filmed the show.

Peter Jurasik, an actor and acting coach in Wilmington, was living in Los Angeles when he came to the Port City back in 1992 to film an episode of Matlock with the show's star.

"The outstanding thing about him…was who he was as a person," said Jurasik. "A star dictates what the set is like, and his set was so relaxed…because he was so easygoing."

Jurasik says that between takes, he and Griffith found time to share laughs.

"He told me Thalian Hall was haunted, and he could get me to sleep there if I wanted," he said. "At first, I thought he was kidding, and then he said, ‘No, no, if you're brave enough to sleep here, you can.'"

Griffith even influenced Jurasik's decision to move to Wilmington.

"That particular show, his spirit, introduced me to the gentleness of North Carolina and the beauty of Wilmington," said Jurasik.

Sabra Bradshaw, who owns Silver Shears in Wilmington, was lucky to cut Griffith's hair for three years on the set of Matlock.

In her salon, she has pictures of the two together, and she proudly shows off the combs and brushes she used on the icon's hair, which are framed.

One of her funniest stories about Griffith involves the filming crew having someone dressed as Ronald McDonald interrupt a scene he was filming.

"They had Ronald secretly stand behind the door, and Andy was in his Ben Matlock mode," she said. "When he opened the door, Ronald said, ‘Hi, Andy!' and we all just laughed. Andy just laughed and thought that was great."

Actor Joe Gallison never met Griffith, but says when he thinks of the icon, the word groundbreaker comes to mind.

"He showed people they could do movies and shows in other places," said Gallison.

Many Wilmington actors added that Griffith efficiently was able to portray southerners on television in a dignified and classy way.

Johnny Griffin, with the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, also remembers Griffith as simple man who was easy to get along with.

Griffin worked with him for about a year when Matlock was filming, and says that because the show was filmed locally, it helped to pave the way for other shows that would later be shot in the area, such as Dawson's Creek and One Tree Hill.

Ron Howard wrote about his former Andy Griffith co-star Tuesday on Twitter, saying, "His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations and shaped my life."

"I'm forever grateful," Howard said. "RIP Andy."

U.S. Senator Richard Burr sent out a statement Tuesday on the passing of Griffith, saying: 

"Brooke and I were very sad to learn of the passing of Andy Griffith today.  Andy was a true North Carolina icon who introduced many people across the country and across the world to our great state for the first time.  While his passing is sad, the legacy he leaves through his work on television and in his community will remain timeless, and future generations will be able to enjoy and appreciate his talent for years to come." 

Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton also issued this statement:

"I am saddened to hear of the passing of Andy Griffith, a true legend. I have been a longtime fan and it was my pleasure to come to know him. Andy Griffith was not only an icon for North Carolina, but he was a genuine person and a true gentleman. Lucille and a send our thoughts and prayers to Cindi and the entire Griffith family."

Governor Bev Perdue spoke highly of Griffith, saying:

"North Carolina has lost its favorite son. Andy Griffith graciously stepped into the living rooms of generations of Americans, always with the playful charm that made him the standard by which entertainers would be measured for decades.

Throughout his career, he represented everything that was good about North Carolina: a small town boy and UNC graduate who took a light-hearted approach to some of the attributes he grew up with and turned them into a spectacularly successful career. And regardless of where that career took him, he always came back to North Carolina and spent his final years here.

In an increasingly complicated world, we all yearn for the days of Mayberry. We all will miss Andy, and I will dearly miss my friend."

Senator Kay Hagan released the following statement about Griffith:

"Andy Griffith was an iconic figure and a great man who embodied southern hospitality. By making 'Mayberry' famous, he put North Carolina — his home state — on the map. A native of Mount Airy, Andy did so much for our state and will be missed by North Carolinians and by the millions of people who adored him, especially for his roles on The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family. Andy will truly be missed."

President Barack Obama also released a statement saying:

"Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Andy Griffith this morning. A performer of extraordinary talent, Andy was beloved by generations of fans and revered by entertainers who followed in his footsteps. He brought us characters from Sheriff Andy Taylor to Ben Matlock, and in the process, warmed the hearts of Americans everywhere. Our thoughts and prayers are with Andy's family."

See what others are saying online about the beloved actor.

Copyright 2012 WECT. All rights reserved. The Raycom News Network contributed to this report.

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