July 3rd, 2012
03:20 PM ET
It's been said that when he was younger, Andy Griffith had aspirations to become an opera singer, but fans of "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Matlock" are undoubtedly happy that he wound up pursuing acting.
The actor, who died at 86 on Tuesday, is most beloved for his portrayal of Sheriff Andy Taylor on the timeless '60s favorite "The Andy Griffith Show," as well as for his role as defense attorney Ben Matlock on the late '80s-mid '90s series "Matlock."
1. The example he set:
"The Andy Griffith Show," with its unforgettable theme song, gave the actor a landmark role in Sheriff Taylor. The widowed father to a young Ron Howard's Opie, Griffith's portrayal of the Sheriff, who oversaw Mayberry, North Carolina, still resonates decades later.
Time magazine's TV critic James Poniewozik nominates the show, which ran from 1960-1968, as one of the cultural touchstones that shaped America.
"This gentle small-town comedy gave us Mayberry's quirks without ridiculing or patronizing them," Poniewozik writes. "And Griffith's Sheriff Taylor, who'd rather wield a wry comment than a gun, was a weekly example of Americans talking through their problems. "
It also served as an example for those watching, a thought we don't often associate with TV programs today.
CNN.com commenter SnackMonster said, "I never knew my real parents when I grew up, but the home I was in as a kid had the Andy Griffith show on TV almost every day. Thanks Mr. Griffith for providing a role model for me when I needed one. You made a huge difference in my life."
Concurred commenter DirtSense, "Growing up, I didn't have a Dad. I had to look for 'dads' on TV to show me how to be. Andy Griffith was & still is one of my role models. Thank you for sharing your talent and wisdom."
2. His love for North Carolina:
Griffith was a North Carolinian through-and-through, having been raised in Mount Airy and attending college at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. North Carolina's Gov. Bev Perdue told CNN in a statement that Griffith's birthplace was evident in his work.
"Throughout his career, he represented everything that was good about North Carolina: a small town boy and UNC graduate who took a light-hearted approach to some of the attributes he grew up with and turned them into a spectacularly successful career," Gov. Perdue said. "And regardless of where that career took him, he always came back to North Carolina and spent his final years here. In an increasingly complicated world, we all yearn for the days of Mayberry. We all will miss Andy, and I will dearly miss my friend."
Added CNN.com commenter shoyaryt, "Andy Griffith IS North Carolina... there are a lot of things we, in NC, pride ourselves with. Our pine covered mountains, our BBQ and basketball. But we pride ourselves most with our favorite neighbor, NC's oldest and dearest friend; Andy Griffith."
3. "Matlock" :
There was also, of course, his role as the argumentative defense attorney Ben Matlock.
The Virginian-Pilot suggested in a 2008 profile of the actor that "if you want the TV comparison, [Griffith is] closer to the analytical braininess of Ben Matlock than he is to the country wisdom of Andy Taylor."
4. His versatility:
But even those two iconic shows don't begin to crack the surface of Griffith's contributions, which is the largest reason we adore Griffith - his talent played well from the stage to the screen.
He rose to fame and proved his wit with this 1953 comedic monologue, "What It Was, Was Football." The monologue sold more than 800,000 copies and, like a lot of Griffith's work, is as funny today as it was 59 years ago.
In addition to his Tony-nominated work on Broadway, Griffith made his mark in 1957's "A Face in the Crowd" as Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, a country boy with an appetite for power who becomes a media sensation.
CNN.com commenter dgoren found called Griffith's work in "Face in the Crowd" "amazing, and probably his best single performance. Think how few actors can break the stereotype that can trap them from a famous role. Andy did it with Matlock just like Buddy Ebsen, but few can. That's a testament to his tremendous talent. He could play a real 'meanie' when the role called for it. Extremely versatile."
Added CNN.com commenter HotHeatWave, "The whole cast was good. He brought the best out in all of them."
5. His legacy:
With all of that, plus a Grammy-winning album to his name with "I Love To Tell The Story — 25 Timeless Hymns," it's no wonder so many concur with country singer Brad Paisley, who told CNN in a statement that few people will have the impact that Griffith had.
“An actor who never looked like he was acting, a moral compass who saved as many souls as most preachers, and an entertainer who put smiles on more faces than almost anyone; this was as successful a life as is pretty much possible," Paisley said. "Andy Griffith made the world a better place, and I was so proud to call him a friend.”
Here's a round-up of other celebrity reactions from around the Web - do share your memories of Griffith's work in the comments below:
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