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OTRC: Andy Griffith dies at age 86, is mourned by Ron Howard

Andy Griffith, an actor known for "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Matlock," has died in North Carolina at age 86.

"Andy Griffith passed away, after an illness, during the early morning on July 3 at his home in Manteo, North Carolina, with his wife Cindi at his side. He was 86 years old," read a family statement obtained by OnTheRedCarpet.com. "Mr. Griffith has been laid to rest on his beloved Roanoke Island. His favorite causes were Outer Banks Conservationists and the Griffith Scholarship Fund at UNC-Chapel Hill."

Griffith and Cindi Knight, his third wife, married in 1983. They have no children together. He and his first wife, Barbara Bray Edwards, had a daughter and a son, who died at age 40 in 1996 after battling alcoholism.

"Andy was a person of incredibly strong Christian faith and was prepared for the day he would be called Home to his Lord," Cindi said in a statement posted on the Facebook page of The Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy, North Carolina, his hometown. "He is the love of my life, my constant companion, my partner, and my best friend. I cannot imagine life without Andy, but I take comfort and strength in God's Grace and in the knowledge that Andy is at peace and with God."

Griffith rose to fame playing the role of Sheriff Andy Taylor, nicknamed "America's Favorite Sheriff," in the 1960s series "The Andy Griffith Show." He also produced and starred in the TV legal drama "Matlock," which aired from 1985 to 1995. His last on-screen role was in the 2009 romantic comedy movie "Play The Game," which also starred Doris Roberts of "Everybody Loves Raymond."

The nature of his recent illness was not disclosed. Griffith suffered from several health problems in the last decade or so of his life - he underwent quadruple heart-bypass surgery in 2000 and hip surgery in 2007.

Griffith was mourned on Twitter by Ron Howard, who starred with him on "The Andy Griffith Show." The two also reprised their roles in a 2008 Funny Or Die online video called "Ron Howard's Call to Action" that supported then-presidential candidates Barack Obama, who won the November election.

"His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations & shaped my life. I'm forever grateful. RIP Andy," Tweeted the director and actor.

Howard was about six years old when he began playing Opie, Griffith's character's son, on "The Andy Griffith Show."

"It's a happy company we've got," Griffith told Pennsylvania newspaper The Gettysburg Times in 1960. "No one ever yells at anyone. I can't stand that. Loud voices just irritate me. You'll never get anything out of me by yelling. Or pushing. We just talk things over quiet-like, and get a lot more done. Saves wear and tear on the nerves, too."

Griffith and his first wife met at the University of North Carolina and he then worked as a music teacher in Goldsboro. He and Barbara performed comedy monologues, one of which caught the attention of a Capitol Records executive, the Associated Press reported in 1957.

Griffith made his Broadway debut that year, playing Will Stockdale in the play "No Time for Sergeants." He reprised the role in a 1958 movie. But He had made his big-screen debut the year before with the film "A Face in the Crowd." He played Larry "Lonesome Rhodes," a bum-turned-TV sesansation who becomes corrupted as he gains fame and political power.

"In any other medium, you work up to an emotional pitch, gradually," he told the Associated Press in 1956. "But in making a movie, you have to be able to turn your emotions on and off like tap water. I found that hard to do."

Griffith was nominated for one primetime Emmy throughout his career - given for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special for the 1981 TV movie "Murder in Texas."

Griffith was also a gospel singer and won a Grammy in 1996 for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album for the record "I Love to Tell the Story - 25 Timeless Hymns."

In 2005, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush for "demonstrating the finest qualities of our country and for a lifetime of memorable performances that have brought joy to millions of Americans of all ages."

In 2010, Griffith starred in a Medicare commercial aimed at promoting U.S. President Barack Obama's health care law to senior citizens.

"This year, like always, we'll have our guaranteed benefits and with the new health care law, more good things are coming," Griffith, then 84, said in the ad, petting a yellow labrador retriever. "I think you're going to like it."

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced that flowers will be placed on Griffith's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 12 p.m. local time. It is located at 6418 Hollywood Boulevard. Griffith received the honor on Feb. 6, 1960.

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