MANTEO, N.C. - He was born Andrew Samuel Griffith in Mount Airy North Carolina in 1926. Andy Griffith majored in music at the University of North Carolina, and taught high school music for three years. But he wanted to entertain. In 1953, Griffith recorded "What It Was Was Football," which became one of the most popular comedic monologues of all time.
Concord resident and former broadcaster Robert D. Raiford, who later appeared in five "Matlock" episodes with Griffith, remembers refusing to play the football monologue on his radio show! He says, "So I was telling Andy about that story and he just laughed and chuckled and said, 'well somebody else played it, didn't they?' And he just chuckled and I said 'they sure did' and it became the number one hit for that time."
Griffith went on to star as Sheriff Andy Taylor in "The Andy Griffith Show." It ran for eight years and continues in re-runs. In 1986, Griffith came back to prime-time TV in "Matlock," which ran for eight seasons.
In 2005, he received the Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. The 86-year-old lived in Manteo with his third wife. Friends say the beloved actor showed "great grace" in dealing with a "constant barrage" of people who felt like he was their best friend. Anna Barrett Smith attended the same church as Griffith and says, "The locals, particularly those who had been there for a long time, were very loyal to him and very protective of giving him an environment to live in where he didn't have to be a celebrity and he didn't have to be on all the time, he was just another local. That's one of the beautiful things about the Outer Banks and about the community there."
Griffith's cause of death hasn't been released. The actor has already been buried on his farm, in a private service with a dozen relatives attending.