Andy Griffith dead at 86

Posted at 11:09 AM, Jul 03, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-03 19:05:09-04

MANTEO, N.C. — Andy Griffith, the actor best known for his role on The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock, died on Tuesday.

Griffith was 86.

“Andy Griffith passed away, after an illness, during the early morning on July 3 at his home in Manteo, N.C., with his wife Cindi at his side," read a statement emailed to CBS 6 from the Family of Andy Griffith. "Mr. Griffith has been laid to rest on his beloved Roanoke Island. His favorite causes were Outer Banks Conservationists and the Griffith Scholarship Fund at UNC-Chapel Hill.” [RELATED: Folks remember Andy Griffith on Facebook and Twitter remember beloved Andy Griffith]

Emergency medical crews responded to Griffith’s home Tuesday morning. Former UNC President Bill Friday confirmed to WGHP he passed away around 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Griffith’s home is located along Highway 64 in Roanoke Island near Manteo.

“Andy was a person of incredibly strong Christian faith and was prepared for the day he would be called Home to his Lord. He is the love of my life, my constant companion, my partner, and my best friend," Griffith's wife Cindi wrote in a statement emailed to CBS 6. "I cannot imagine life without Andy, but I take comfort and strength in God’s Grace and in the knowledge that Andy is at peace and with God.”

Griffith, 86, was an actor, director, producer and award-winning singer and writer. He was best known for his starring role in The Andy Griffith Show and in the legal drama Matlock.

Griffith and Barbara Bray Edwards were married on August 22, 1949, and they adopted a son, Andrew Samuel Griffith Jr. (born in 1957 and known as Sam Griffith), a real-estate developer, and a daughter, Dixie Nan. They were divorced in 1972. He and Cindi Knight were married on April 12, 1983; they had met when he was filming Murder in Coweta County. [BONUS: Share your favorite Andy Griffith memories here

Griffith was born in Mount Airy, the only child of Geneva and Carl Lee Griffith. As a student at Mount Airy High School, Griffith cultivated an interest in the arts, and he participated in the school’s drama program. A growing love of music, particularly swing, would change his life.

“We are broken hearted.  Andy Griffith means the world to the arts everywhere – not just here in Mount Airy. His contribution to us, the Surry Arts Council, and the town of Mount Airy cannot be measured.  We are blessed to have known him.  We will cherish is his art, his music, his talent, and of course, our beloved Andy Griffith Show.  Our prayers and love go out to Cindi.  We know that Andy is at peace and that is what is important right now,” Surry Arts Council Executive Director Tanya Jones wrote in an email to CBS 6. 

Griffith began college studying to be a Moravian preacher, but he changed his major to music and became a part of the school’s Carolina Play Makers. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, and graduated with a bachelor of music degree in 1949.

After graduation, he taught English for a few years at Goldsboro High School.

Griffith starred on The Andy Griffith show from 1960-1968. Reruns of the show continue across the country.

In 1967, Griffith was under contract with CBS to do one more season of the show. However, he decided to quit the show to pursue a movie career and other projects.

Griffith then went on to star in Matlock from 1986-1995. During the series’ sixth season, he served as unofficial director, executive producer and writer of the show.

Griffith was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2005.

(Scott Gustin with WGHP contributed to this report)