Continued from page 1

This new character _ law-abiding, fatherly and lovable _ was like a latter-day homage to Sheriff Andy Taylor, updated with silver hair. The show aired though 1995.

Griffith was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts Hall of Fame in 1992. In 2005, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the country’s highest civilian honors.

In a statement Tuesday, President Barack Obama said Griffith’s characters “warmed the hearts of Americans everywhere.”

Griffith’s signature role “put heavy pressure on him because everyone felt like he was their best friend,” Fincannon said. “With great grace, he handled the constant barrage of people wanting to talk to Andy Taylor.”

In the coastal town of Manteo, Griffith protected his privacy with help from a circle of friends who revealed little to nothing about him.

Strangers who asked where Griffith lived would receive circular directions that took them to the beach, said William Ivey Long, the Tony Award-winning costume designer whose parents were friends with Griffith and his first wife, Barbara.

Griffith and Knotts had become friends while performing in “No Time for Sergeants” and remained so until Knotts‘ death at 81.

Knotts‘ widow, Francey Yarborough Knotts, said Griffith was in good spirits when she spoke with him June 1, his birthday.

Don and I loved Andy very much,” she said in a statement. “Andy and Don had a great friendship and a great creative partnership. Throughout their lives, they continued to have fun together and discuss the art of comedy and acting.”

Asked in 2007 to name his favorite episodes, Griffith cited those that emphasized Knotts‘ character.

“The second episode that we shot I knew Don should be funny and I should play straight for him,” Griffith said. “That opened up the whole series because I could play straight for everybody else. And I didn’t have to be funny. I just let them be funny.”

Griffith’s generosity toward his cast mates paid off richly for those fellow actors, particularly Knotts.

Sheriff Taylor was ever-indulgent with the twitchy, bug-eyed Deputy Fife and loved joshing with him just for sport. The result was five supporting-actor Emmys for Knotts.

“What are the state police gonna think when they get here and find we got an empty jail?” rants Barney in one episode, worried about appearances, as always. “They’re gonna think this is just a hick town where nothing ever happens!”

“Well, now,” Taylor says calmly, “you got to admit that’s about the size of it.”

Story Continues →