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Andy Griffith, television icon, dies at 86

July 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Actor Andy Griffith, best known for his roles in the popular TV series "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Matlock," died Tuesday after an illness, according to a family statement. He was 86.

According to Dare County sheriff's officials, Griffith died about 7 a.m. at his coastal home in North Carolina.

Griffith died peacefully with his wife, Cindi Knight Griffith, at his side, and has been "laid to rest on his beloved Roanoke Island," according to a statement released by his family. The statement did not elaborate on what type of illness Griffith had.

In her own statement, Cindi Knight Griffith remembered her husband:

"Andy was a person of incredibly strong Christian faith and was prepared for the day he would be called Home to his Lord. 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 in the 1960s series, "The Andy Griffith Show," adding southern hospitality to the sitcom about small town America. He once said he wished he could have been a little more like Sheriff Andy Taylor.

Griffith's hometown of Mount Airy, N.C., is believed to be the real Mayberry. The town's movie theater is a monument to his career.

Griffith first started out as a high school music teacher, getting his first break with a funny radio monologue about football. Griffith was soon appearing on Broadway and starring in films like "No Time for Sergeants."

Critics liked his work, and so did Hollywood, giving him "The Andy Griffith Show." When the show went off the air in 1968, it left as the No. 1 show in America.

Eighteen years later, he made a TV comeback playing the southern, guitar-playing lawyer, "Matlock."

Griffith also made music off screen, even winning a Grammy for one of his gospel albums.

Actor and director Ron Howard, who played Sheriff Taylor's son Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show," paid his respects via Twitter, writing that "his pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations and shaped my life. I'm forever grateful. RIP Andy."

"He was folksy, he was down to Earth, but he had an intelligent, broad, view, fascination with human beings," Howard said in an interview.

President Barack Obama also reacted to the news of Griffith's passing.

"Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Andy Griffith this morning. A performer of extraordinary talent, Andy was beloved by generations of fans and revered by entertainers who followed in his footsteps. He brought us characters from Sheriff Andy Taylor to Ben Matlock, and in the process, warmed the hearts of Americans everywhere. Our thoughts and prayers are with Andy's family," he said in a statement.

Flowers were placed on Griffith's Hollywood Walk of Fame star, in memory of the legendary TV star.

Griffith is survived by family members including Cindi Knight Griffith, who is his third wife, and daughter from his first marriage, Dixie Nan Griffith.

ABC News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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