Andy Griffith Dead at 86

Actor Andy Griffith, who starred in The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock, died this morning in North Carolina, UNC President Bill Friday — a close friend of Griffith — tells WITN-TV. He was 86.

Griffith was born in Mount Airy, N.C., which later became the basis for Mayberry, the fictional town that was the setting for The Andy Griffith Show. After graduating from UNC (where he initially studied to become a preacher) Griffith began to act on television and Broadway, eventually receiving his film debut in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd, in which he starred as a ruthless drifter-cum-media-personality.

Three years later, his eponymous sitcom premiered. Griffith played Andy Taylor, the sheriff of the small town of Mayberry, N.C., alongside Don Knotts as the bumbling deputy Barney Fife; a young Ron Howard starred as Opie, Andy's son. It ran for eight seasons. (If you've never seen it, you can, and should, catch it streaming on Netflix or Hulu.)

After The Andy Griffith Show, Griffith moved through a series of short-lived sitcoms and television shows before being cast in 1986 as unbelievably good lawyer Ben Matlock on Matlock, a drama set in Atlanta. Matlock left the air in 1995, and Griffith starred sporadically in films — you may remember him as the villain in Spy Hard, or maybe not — thereafter. He also released several country gospel and spoken-word albums.