Andy Griffith, TV legend, dies at age 86

Andy Griffith, a TV legend who considered himself blessed to star in twin megahits "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Matlock," died today at his home in Dare County, North Carolina. He was 86.

Griffith was beloved around the world for his warm portrayal of the lovable Sheriff Andy Taylor in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C., and his gentle dealings with his son Opie, played by the young Ron Howard, and his incompetent deputy Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts.

The show ran from 1960 to 1968 and made huge stars of the cast. Griffith never won an Emmy Award for playing the sheriff, but sidekick Knott won five consecutive Emmy Awards for his hilarious portrayal of Barney Fife. Knott died in 2006.

Today, Ron Howard tweeted this: "Andy Griffith: His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations & shaped my life. I'm forever grateful. RIP Andy."

Griffith caused a sensation in 1968 when he quit the show amid a contract dispute, ending one of the most endearing and popular comedies in the history of television.

Years later, Griffin landed another memorable role in "Matlock," playing a defense lawyer named Benjamin Matlock whose countrified ways fooled citified rivals in courtroom battles. The popular legal drama ran from 1986 to 1995.

During his lengthy career, Griffin starred on Broadway, recorded dozens of albums, had movie hits such as Elia Kazan's classic "A Face In The Crowd," and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Griffin was born on June 1, 1926, in Mount Airy, N.C. During an interview with this reporter many years ago, Griffin said he remained a North Carolinian his entire life even though his career often took him to New York and Los Angeles.

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