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Andy Griffith dead at 86

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Andy Griffith on "The Andy Griffith Show" in the 1960s.

By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

Actor Andy Griffith, who won the hearts of 1960s TV viewers with his role as gentle Sheriff Andy Taylor in “The Andy Griffith Show,” then returned as a 1980s country lawyer in “Matlock,” died Tuesday at 86, according to WITN-TV.

The news was reported to the North Carolina television station by Bill Friday, former president of the University of North Carolina and a Griffith friend. The Charlotte Observer later reported that its sources had confirmed Griffith’s death.

Actor Ron Howard, who played Griffith’s son, Opie, on "The Andy Griffith Show," told Deadline.comthat Griffith "has not been well for some time."

"His love of creating, the joy he took in it whether it was drama or comedy or his music, was inspiring to grow up around," Howard told Deadline. "The spirit he created on the set of The Andy Griffith Show was joyful and professional all at once. It was an amazing environment."

Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie had confirmed to WITN earlier that am ambulance was sent to Griffith’s home.

Griffith began his entertainment career with comic monologues and moved into movies, debuting in 1957’s “A Face in the Crowd” with Patricia Neal. But it was as the widower sheriff Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” that he really made his mark. The show, which also starred comedian Don Knotts as bumbling Deputy Barney Fife, ran from 1960-1968. Its setting, in the fictional small-town of Mayberry, became almost as famous as any one episode.

Griffith returned to TV stardom in 1986 as Ben Matlock, a Southern lawyer. That show ran until 1995 and was seized upon by comedians as a punchline for its popularity with older Americans. In one “Simpsons” episode, a highway is renamed the Matlock Expressway so a town mayor can win the elderly vote.

Griffith was married three times. He is survived by wife Cindi and his daughter Dixie. Son Andrew Jr., known as Sam, died in 1996. Rest of story here…

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