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The Daily Tar Heel

Exhibit Honors UNC Alumnus

Before that Andy Griffith, the famous comedian, actor and musician, was a student here at the University.

Now all these different phases from his life have returned in an exhibit at Wilson Library. The "Andy Griffith: Chapel Hill, Mayberry and Beyond" exhibit includes playbills, posters, recordings and photographs and will run through Aug. 22.

Among these things, a program dated 1946 for Mount Airy Operetta Club's "The Bartered Bride," credits Griffith for playing a more minor character named Kezal. A few steps away is a listening center visitors can use to hear him brawl out exerts from "What It Was, Was Football," his famous comedy routine. Also featured in the exhibit are an "Andy Griffith Show" trivia game and a toy car modeled after Mayberry's police car.

Research to bring this exhibit together started at the beginning of year and continued sporadically until last month, during which library assistant Laura Baxley worked almost full-time on it.

"Visitors often ask about Andy Griffith," she said. "We thought this would be a fun exhibit for the summer and a good way to answer those questions."

The exhibit opened on Friday with a speech delivered by Neal Brower, author of a book on the fictional town of Mayberry. About 100 people showed up for the opening, and around 200 visited the exhibit last weekend.

"It's been phenomenal. I knew when we planned it, it'd be well-received, but I had no idea there'd be so much interest," Baxley said.

In researching, much of the material came from Wilson Library itself. Through the Mount Airy Visitor Center they found Emmitt Forrest, a childhood friend of Andy Griffith who lent many of the artifacts of the exhibit. "I accumulated a lot of the items during my early years here, when we were in school together," Forrest said. "Now I buy off eBay."

However they were acquired, the artifacts, information, photographs and other items all come together to tell the story of Griffith's life, which began in Mount Airy in 1926. After his childhood in his hometown, Griffith enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill to become a minister. However, he discovered he hated academic studies but loved activities such as participating in Carolina PlayMakers, singing in Glee Club and playing in the band, so he switched his major to music.

In 1960 the hit TV series "The Andy Griffith Show" began. In its eight-year run, the show never dropped out of the Neilson ratings top ten, and it has never been off air since it went into syndication. Entertainment continued to be more lucrative for Griffith. He starred in the TV series "Matlock" which began in 1986. In 1997 he won a Grammy for his gospel album, "I Love To Tell the Story." Griffith is still active these days.

Baxley said the exhibit's mission was to document the various lives of one UNC alum, and judging from the initial public response, they had done so successfully.

"We've tried to talk about his life and career from childhood to his most recent Grammy," she said. "It gives patrons a great overview of his whole career."

Allyson Shaffer can be reached at

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