An American Star: Andy Griffith

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This past week was one of my favorite weeks of the year for one reason: Fourth of July celebrations with family. However, even in the midst of all the fun, there was still some sad news. On July 3rd, it was reported that Andy Griffith had passed away in Manteo, North Carolina. He was eighty-six years old. Many people will instantly recognize that name, and I will provide a brief background for those who do not know who he is.

Andy Griffith was born on June 1, 1926 in Mount Airy, North Carolina. Griffith’s alma mater is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Though he originally planned to be a Moravian preacher, he changed his major to music once he was enrolled at the university. During his time at UNC-Chapel Hill, Griffith was a member of the Carolina Play Makers, as well as a member and president of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia (a men’s musical fraternity). After graduating, Griffith taught music and drama for a while at Goldsboro High School in North Carolina. However, Andy Griffith became most famous for what he would go on to do after teaching at Goldsboro High. By the time of his death on July 3rd, Griffith was known as “an American actor, television producer, Grammy Award-winning Southern gospel singer, and writer.” Though he did have prominent roles in several films, he became most widely known for his roles on television; he starred in the 1960-1968 comedy The Andy Griffith Show and on the 1986-1995 legal drama Matlock. In 2005, Griffith was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former president George W. Bush. Two years later, in 2007, Griffith was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

The description above is by no means a completely comprehensive list of all the accomplishments and awards that Andy Griffith could lay claim to by the time of his passing. However, I know that (at least in my household) we will remember Andy Griffith not only for his accomplishments, but also for what he meant to us. Though I, and many people, never had the privilege of knowing Griffith personally, he still made an impact on many lives, including mine. When I think of Andy Griffith, I think of spending warm summer mornings with my mother and sister. The three of us are admittedly total suckers for any sort of legal drama. Yet Matlock, starring Andy Griffith, held a special place in our hearts. Matlock re-runs would play on AMC every weekday morning at ten o’clock. No matter what my mother was doing those many mornings, she would always have Matlock playing on the small TV in our kitchen (and sometimes on the main living room TV as well). During the school year, my sister and I were not able to watch with her; during the summer months, my sister and I were often awake in time to sit in the kitchen with my mother and watch many episodes of Matlock. It didn’t matter if we had seen a particular episode once or a hundred times; we watched regardless, simply because there were (and still are) few shows we enjoyed as much as Matlock. And we loved the show because of Andy Griffith, who played a character who was brilliant, slightly silly, caring, and professional all at the same time.

Just yesterday morning, I found myself watching TV with my dad while we relaxed at my grandmother’s house. Without really thinking about it, we settled on watching re-runs of The Andy Griffith Show. It’s been over forty years since the show ended, and many aspects of the episodes portray a time that was extremely different from our modern world. Yet, despite these differences, there are so many aspects of the show that are timeless. Even forty years later after the show ended, I find myself being able to chuckle at many of the humorous situations that the show focuses on. The lessons that Andy Griffith teaches his son on the show remain as true today as they were all those years ago. And I believe that is what I particularly enjoy about Andy Griffith: to me, he is timeless. He meant something to people decades ago, and he still means something to people today. Few actors I know have such an effect.

Times change, opinions change, and tastes change. Even so, some people and ideas remain timeless. I believe no American actor embodies this better than Andy Griffith. He meant so much to so many people because he embodied many of the simple joys in life. Such as sitting in the kitchen on a warm summer morning while you watch a favorite show with your mother and sister. Such as enjoying old re-runs of a classic show with your father. The world can be crazy sometimes, but every once in a while it is important to stop and reflect on the good things in life. Andy Griffith was able to spread joy to many people, and I believe he will continue to as time goes on.

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