The news of Andy Griffith’s death saddened people across this nation, but none more so than those of us whose home is North Carolina, where Griffith was born, raised, schooled at the University of North Carolina, first strummed a guitar, got his start in acting at “The Lost Colony,” and died at the age of 86 at his adopted coastal home of Manteo.
Baby Boomers weren’t alone in reminiscing about Griffith’s ability to turn Sheriff Andy Taylor into a television icon — an affable Southern sheriff who used words instead of a gun to keep the peace in Mayberry, a fictitious town modeled after Griffith’s native Mount Airy — and the antics of sidekick Barney Fife, brought to life by the late Don Knotts. Through the gift of reruns, those of us who were born after “The Andy Griffith Show” ended its eight-year run in 1968 also came to love Sheriff Taylor and his cast of bumbling — but lovable — misfits and the stories that they shared.
Griffith, an actor, writer and accomplished gospel singer, was frustrated that people too easily believed that Andy Taylor was just an on-screen personification of Griffith himself, often pointing out without apology that he was not nearly as kind or as accommodating as the fictitious sheriff. But Griffith in recent years would allow that the best of him could be found in Sheriff Taylor.
Life in Mayberry, where the front door need not be locked for a trip to the corner store, moved at its own pace, which nagged Barney and visitors as well, especially of the Yankee or Big City — like Raleigh — blend. Nothing could speed it up as Mayberry existed before the Internet, cell phones, iPads, cable television and all the other conveniences that most of us all need to navigate another day.
“The Andy Griffith Show” not only amused and entertained, but showed us how life is best lived, the power of a kind word here and there, and simple acts of kindness offered with no expectation of repayment. It showed that good, knee-slapping television can be delivered without vulgarity, violence and promiscuity.
It’s been 44 years since “The Andy Griffith Show” ended, and Griffith, Knotts and Frances Bavier, the lovable Aunt Bee whose home was Siler City, are no longer with us, leaving only Ron Howard, the child-actor turned Oscar-winning director, still living among the show’s main four characters. But the 249 black-and-white episodes continue to recycle, entering our homes every day, and providing not only laughs but life lessons, giving us all a trip worth taking to a simple and a more comforting time.