RALEIGH, N.C. — Andy Griffith, who made homespun Southern wisdom his trademark as the wise sheriff in “The Andy Griffith Show” and the rumpled defense lawyer in “Matlock,” died Tuesday. He was 86.
Griffith died about 7 a.m. at his coastal home, Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie said in a statement.
“Mr. Griffith passed away this morning at his home peacefully and has been laid to rest on his beloved Roanoke Island,” Doughtie told The Associated Press, reading from a family statement.
The family will release further information, the sheriff said.
He had suffered a heart attack and underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2000.
Griffith’s career spanned more than a half-century on stage, film and television, but he would always be best known as Sheriff Andy Taylor in the television show set in a North Carolina town not too different from Griffith’s own hometown of Mount Airy, N.C.
Griffith set the show in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C., where Sheriff Taylor was the dutiful nephew who ate pickles that tasted like kerosene because they were made by his loving Aunt Bee, played by the late Frances Bavier. He was a widowed father who offered gentle guidance to son Opie, played by Ron Howard, who grew up to become the Oscar-winning director of “A Beautiful Mind.”
Don Knotts was the goofy Deputy Barney Fife, while Jim Nabors joined the show as Gomer Pyle, the unworldly, lovable gas pumper.
On “Matlock,” which aired from 1986 through 1995, Griffith played a cagey Harvard-educated defense attorney who was Southern-bred and -mannered with a practice in Atlanta.
In his rumpled seersucker suit in a steamy courtroom (air conditioning would have spoiled the mood), Matlock could toy with a witness and tease out a confession like a folksy Perry Mason.
The character — law-abiding, fatherly and lovable — was much like Sheriff Andy Taylor with silver hair and a shingle.