It is hard to write something about the passing of Mount Airy native Andy Griffith that hasn’t already been said.
Television pundits, fans and columnists the world over have spoken endlessly about the lessons to be learned from “The Andy Griffith Show” and the fictional Sheriff Andy Taylor, and no one can argue those lessons aren’t good, positive, wholesome values we should all espouse.
Not as many have talked about Griffith, the real-life man.
The famed actor came from humble beginnings — many might even say he grew up in an impoverished home. Through a combination of talent, hard work, and dogged pursuit of a dream, he became an international star.
His climb to the status of icon is well-chronicled (and we offer a brief time-line of his career on page A2), from early success as a comedian to starring in what is arguably the most popular American television show of all time (“The Andy Griffith Show”).
Griffith also experienced his share of controversy. He was said to be, at times, cantankerous and difficult to work with. He most assuredly was able to hold a grudge, particularly against those he perceived as having wronged him or his family during his youthful days in Mount Airy. And he made himself a target of wrath for many when he did a television spot seemingly endorsing President Obama’s Health Care Reform.
But even in those less-than-flattering parts of his life, Griffith has much to teach us. He could be difficult, but mostly because he demanded a level of excellence for which some weren’t willing to work. He did hold grudges, but as he aged he become soft-hearted toward many of those who had, in fact, wronged him, and he showed the humility and wisdom to put aside those hard feelings and re-establish connections.
As for the health care reform — for good or bad, Griffith stood up and spoke his mind, just as he has in several North Carolina gubernatorial races. Agree or disagree with his position, it is good to see a person state what he believes, regardless of the popularity of those beliefs.
Griffith also exhibited throughout his life an intense loyalty to his friends, whether those be from his childhood days or people he met along his climb to the top of his profession. He was quietly kind, often donating to charitable causes — many times he footed the bill for Christmas gifts for underprivileged families in the town of Manteo — and he worked hard to keep those donations private.
And he worked extremely hard at his craft, not for fame — Griffith shunned the limelight and aggressively guarded his privacy — but simply because he felt, as colleague and life-long friend Ron Howard said Griffith taught him, if you’re going to do something, you ought to do it well.
Not to cast a shadow over the fictional Andy Taylor, but if we look past him at the Andy Griffith, we will see many characteristics that we would do well to emulate.