Sheriff lives on in reruns of ‘Griffith’ show

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, July 8, 2012

When I say Mayberry, almost immediately your thoughts are taken back to “The Andy Griffith Show.”

     Just about everyone knows the fictional town Mayberry and the actor who played its sheriff, Andy Griffith.

     Griffith, 86, died this past week. Within hours of his death, he was buried on Roanoke Island near the coast of North Carolina, the same state where the imaginary little hamlet of Mayberry was said to be located.

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     The Andy Griffith Show aired from late 1960 until 1968 and was centered around a small town sheriff, his son, his maiden aunt and a whole cast of characters who made up the fictional town.

     You didn’t have to watch the show in the ’60s to know who Sheriff Taylor or where Mayberry was. The show has continued to live on in reruns for 50 years with new generations of viewers and fans.

     I can shut my eyes and hear the show’s opening tune, which was whistled, and see Sheriff Taylor walking down a dirt path with his son, Opie, heading to the fishing hole.

     The show’s idealistic setting made everyone who ever watched the show wish they had grown up in such a small town. All of Mayberry’s residents knew each other and the show made you believe they were one big family.

     Each week you could tune in to the show and each week Sheriff Taylor would teach a new lesson in morality. Most weeks the lesson centered around compassion to others.

     The sheriff even made everyone love the town drunk, Otis Campbell, who would walk into the jail and into his cell, and sleep off his latest binge.

     We also came to love characters such as Aunt Bea, cousins Gomer and Goober Pyle, Floyd the barber and even the town’s busy body, Clara Edwards.

     One of my favorite characters from the show was Barney Fife, the bumbling sheriff’s deputy, who carried an unloaded gun and a bullet in the breast pocket of his shirt. Barney was always getting into some type of trouble that the sheriff inevitably fixed.

     A lot of times we normal everyday people get characters like Sheriff Taylor mixed up with the actor that portrayed the part. I’d like to think that Andy Griffith was a lot like Sheriff Taylor.

     The sheriff was full of wisdom and love for his family and friends. From what I’ve read and from interviews that I’ve seen on Griffith, he and the character he portrayed on the show were fairly similar.

     It’s too bad we don’t have more television shows like “The Andy Griffith Show.”

     Griffith was also well known in another role, that of Ben Matlock. The “Matlock” television show ran from 1986 to 1995.

     The character Griffith played was a surly sear-sucker suit-wearing defense attorney who took on cases that seemed nearly impossible to win.

     Again, Griffith played on his folksy charm, even bringing out his guitar at times and serenading whoever was there to listen on the front porch of his Atlanta home.

     “Matlock” still airs on the Hallmark Channel quite frequently. My grandparents are still big fans of the show.

     I really didn’t know much about Griffith’s actual personal life until I did a little research on the Internet.

     He had been married three times and had two adopted children, a boy and girl. His son, Sam, died in 1996.

     In April 1983, he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre’ syndrome and could not walk for seven months. Griffith went on to have other health problems, but the exact cause of his death has not been published.

     Griffith was actually pretty quiet about his personal life. Friends and family who lived in the small town with Griffith kept his home’s whereabouts and activities private.

     He was just as private in his death, with plans to be buried just hours after passing on the family’s estate on Roanoke Island.

     Griffith and the rest of the Mayberry gang will continue to live on in our hearts and in television reruns.

     Rest in peace, Andy.

     And how was your week?

     Lifestyles Editor Tammie Brewer can be reached at The DAILY LEADER at (601) 833-6961 ext. 134, by email at or you can write to her at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602.