Beloved actor Andy Griffith has passed away at the age of 86.
The star who endeared himself to millions the world over with his portrayal of Sheriff Andy Taylor in the fictional Southern hamlet of Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show passed away at his Roanoke Island, North Carolina home Tuesday morning after an illness, said a statement from Griffith's family. "Mr. Griffith has been laid to rest on his beloved Roanoke Island," the statement continued.
Most critics consider The Andy Griffith Show one of the Top 10 best American television shows of all time. It was Griffith's simple, Southern charm that made the show such a huge success. The program has never left the air since it originally aired during the 1960s, and continues to be popular in reruns today. Griffith brought to life the town of Mayberry, where he watched over colorful characters with the help of his Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife, played memorably by the late Don Knotts.
Much of the action centered around Andy Taylor's home life, which consisted of young son Opie (Ron Howard) and the much-loved Aunt Bea. The show captured the true essence of small-town Americana, which Griffith knew intimately, as he grew up in quaint Mount Airy, North Carolina, which he is believed to have been the basis for the town of Mayberry. Mount Airy is now the home of the Andy Griffith Museum and also hosts the "Mayberry Days" festival each September.
Griffith would experience more success later on in his life, with the hit drama series Matlock, which ran from 1986 through 1995, first on NBC then later on ABC. The show featured Griffith as crotchety criminal defense lawyer Ben Matlock, who was so good that he charged $100,000 to take on a case.
Griffith graduated from the University of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with a degree in music. He started his career acting and singing in musicals, scoring Tony Award nominations for his turns in the plays "No Time for Sergeants" and "Destry Rides Again" on Broadway. He made his big screen debut with legendary actress Patricia Neal in the film A Face in the Crowd, where he played a singer who turns into a monster after experiencing great success.
Griffith never forgot about his musical roots. He received a Grammy Award for best Southern, country or bluegrass gospel album for "I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns," in 1997.
He had been plagued by health problems in recent years, including a quadruple heart-bypass surgery following a heart attack in 2000 and hip surgery after a fall. He was also diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can cause sudden paralysis.
Griffith was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2005. Bush was an admitted fan of Griffith and his show of simple, homespun values.