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July 04, 2012  | by: Julia Cuozzo

Andy Griffith

Andy Griffith passed away at the age of 86, two nights ago at his home in North Carolina, the state which was always his home. Griffith, a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in music started out on Broadway before breaking into television through such mediums as The Ed Sullivan Show.

Eventually, Andy Griffith got his own, self-titled show which, if you have never seen it over the last 50 years it has been on television (thanks to the power of syndication), you would at the very least, recognize its theme song. A simple whistle of a simple tune. The opening credits featured a very young Ron Howard, pre-Richie Cunningham, and Andy walking down a dirt road with fishing rods. Nothing flashy, and yet, perfectly memorable in its own way; very similar to Andy Griffith himself.

Griffith was one of the few Hollywood octogenarians we had left. Like Betty White, Griffith understood that being on television and being famous was a privilege that came with great responsibility. Andy’s calling to be in the spotlight had nothing to do with ego. You can see that in the characters he played and the way that everyone has spoken about him throughout the years as well as through his actions. A story on IMDB.com recounts this tale in Griffith’s early years:

During a 1959 performance of the Broadway musical “Destry Rides Again”, in which Griffith starred opposite Dolores Gray, a small fire broke out backstage at the Imperial Theater. Although it was put out within a few minutes time, without causing any major damage, just enough smoke drifted toward the stage that there could have been a panic had not Griffith and Gray continued on with the scene as though nothing was happening. For their bravery, they were rewarded by the audience that night with a standing ovation and by the New York City Fire Commissioner with citations for heroism.

Griffith has fortunately been immortalized before his passing, not only thanks to his contributions to television and the arts (it’s reported that Matlock was his favorite role), but thanks to the town of Mount Airy, North Carolina-his birth place. Since September 2009, Mount Airy has been home to the Andy Griffith Museum. Everyone who has ever had a sick day of watching Matlock reruns with their grandmothers should consider the pilgrimage. In fact, anyone who ever laughed at the Andy Griffith references Ron Howard made in Arrested Development should go out of respect.

Rest in peace, Mr. Griffith.

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