From his performance beginnings as a music student at UNC to his widely popular show set in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C., Andy Griffith influenced millions throughout his career and his lifetime.
Griffith, the television star, musician and comedian, died at his home in Manteo, N.C., Tuesday. He was 86 years old.
“He’s North Carolina royalty,” said Craig Distl of the tourism department for Mount Airy, N.C., home of the Andy Griffith Museum. “He’s synonymous with North Carolina and everything that’s positive about our state.”
Griffith was born in 1926 in Mount Airy. He attended UNC and graduated in 1949 with a music degree.
At UNC, Griffith became involved in drama and musical theater.
Griffith performed his popular comedic monologue, “What It Was, Was Football,” at Kenan Stadium in 1954.
In the monologue, Griffith adopts the persona of a man clueless to what is happening at a college football game. Capitol Records released a recording of the monologue, which went on to sell more than 800,000 copies.
Beginning in 1947 until 1953, Griffith performed in the outdoor drama “The Lost Colony,” which has been performed every summer in Manteo since 1937. The drama was written by the renowned playwright and UNC professor Paul Green.
Charles Massey, director of marketing for the “Lost Colony,” said Griffith supported and worked with the production for years after his role ended and while he lived in Manteo.
“He never forgot he was a North Carolinian,” Massey said. “This is where he wanted to be.”
Griffith gained international acclaim after the creation of his hugely successful sitcom, “The Andy Griffith Show,” which first aired in 1960 and ran until 1968.
Griffith played Sheriff Andy Taylor in the sitcom, set in the small, fictional town of Mayberry, N.C.
“He brought North Carolina to the world,” Distl said. “People saw the good qualities of North Carolina, the down-home quality folks that we have here.”
Distl said that many people are unfamiliar with Griffith’s music career because it was overshadowed by his television and movie career.
“He was bluegrass before bluegrass was cool,” Distl said. “He incorporated a lot of that music into his show.”
In 2005, Griffith donated items chronicling his career, such as letters, postcards, film reels and playbills to the archives at Wilson Library.
“I am proud of my connections to Carolina and pleased to know that some results from a lifetime of work on television, film, stage and recordings will have a permanent home in Chapel Hill,” Griffith said in a 2005 statement to the University.
The UNC department of music established the Andy Griffith Scholarship in his honor to benefit UNC music majors.
Stephen Fletcher, a North Carolina Collection archivist at UNC, runs a blog featuring the photographs of Hugh Morton, a photographer who worked for The Daily Tar Heel and was the editor of the Yackety Yack in the 1940s.
Fletcher said there are about 17 photographs taken in Chapel Hill of Griffith on the blog, called “A View to Hugh,” and in the wake of his death, these photographs provide valuable insight into his life.
“With the blog and photos, we’re able to show how the materials we have here can be useful to various people,” Fletcher said.
Distl said the Andy Griffith Museum features artifacts and memorabilia chronicling his entire life and draws people from all over the world.
“He’s an icon,” Distl said. “He’ll live on forever as an ambassador and as a part of North Carolina history.”
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