Intensely private Griffith was one of Dare’s own
Andy Griffith, who started his acting career with The Lost Colony and honed his comedy routine during midnight gatherings at a local Shriner’s Club, died Tuesday morning at his Roanoke Island home. His 86th birthday was on June 1.
Griffith is best known as Andy Taylor, the lovable sheriff in The Andy Griffith Show, which aired from 1960 to1968, and later as the lead role in Matlock.
But he continued to make movies, albums and even an acclaimed music video well into his 80s.
Despite his tendency to avoid the public while on the Outer Banks, Griffith made substantial contributions to the community, most notably as one of the founders of the Outer Banks Community Foundation.
Edward Greene, who met Griffith in 1953 when they were both in the cast of The Lost Colony, said he remembers a call 30 years ago from David Stick, the late Outer Banks historian and author, about getting together with Griffith and some prominent Outer Banks businessmen. The men all knew each other, he said, but they were puzzled why Stick wanted the meeting with Griffith.
“I thought, something great is going to come out of this, ” Greene said.
As it turns out, in the spring of 1982, Stick had finished an interview with Griffith when the actor asked about ways to give back to the community for encouraging him when he first started his acting career. Stick mentioned the idea of starting a foundation, and it took off from there, with Ray White, Martin Kellogg, George Crocker and Jack Adams also on board.
The Foundation today has about $9 million in assets and has awarded more than $2 million in grants and scholarships.
Not only did the foundation bind Griffith and Greene, 87, “forever,” Greene said, but the actor frequently extended himself to help him, like writing an introduction to his book, “Reflections of the Outer Banks,” and lending his fame to the Christmas Shop’s summer stock theater.
“He was very generous,” Greene said. “He was a good friend.”
In his later years, Griffith mostly stayed behind the gate of his 70-acre estate with an expansive view of the Roanoke Sound. Friends say he appeared content and found joy in his flower gardens.
Chief Deputy Steve Hoggard of the Dare County Sheriff’s Office said that Emergency Medical Services was called at about 7 a.m. to his home on the north end of the island. Griffith was laid to rest at his home later that morning.
Outer Bankers overall were respectful of Griffith’s desire for privacy, although some complained that he could be downright unfriendly if he was encountered in passing. Even though Griffith liked to keep to himself, he would come out to public events on occasion and would be warm and welcoming, and locals would be happy to see him but seldom harassed him.
In 2001, he was honored at the 67th Daniels Family Reunion in Wanchese, where he was joined by then-U.S. Sen. John Edwards. Griffith also was known to maintain a close relationship with former state Sen. Marc Basnight, the powerful Senate leader from Manteo and his Roanoke Island neighbor.
When the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge opened in 2002, Griffith’s 1935 Packard convertible sedan, with Griffith and his wife Cindi seated inside, was the first vehicle to make the 5-mile crossing.
But his involvement in the fight against Food Lion likely earned him the most local credibility. In 2001, he spoke in opposition to the supermarket chain building a store in Manteo, siding with those who wanted to maintain a small-town atmosphere.
Eventually, Food Lion gave up and decided instead to build in Nags Head, right next to locally-owned Seamark Foods, where Griffith was frequently seen shopping. Griffith made a commercial for Seamark and gave them permission to keep running it. At about the same time, intentional or not, Food Lion began running its commercial using the famous whistling theme song from The Andy Griffith Show.
Griffith never said a word publicly about it, and Seamark Foods has since gone of out business.
Born in Mt. Airy, N.C., Griffith would return to his Roanoke Island home to escape the hustle and bustle of Hollywood and New York before settling in permanently, according to a profile by Mal Vincent of The Virginian-Pilot.Starting while he was studying with the University of North Carolina Playmakers, Griffith was in The Lost Colony from 1947 through 1953. In his last season, he played Sir Walter Raleigh.
On Saturdays at midnight, Greene said, Griffith would go to the Shriner’s Club that was then at Whalebone Junction and work on eight or nine of his standup comedy routines, including the famous “What it was, was football.”
“Everybody loved what he did,” Greene recalled, “but you don’t think, ‘Boy, he’s headed to the big time.’ But when it happened, nobody was surprised.”
Greene said his relationship with Griffith didn’t change after the actor shot to fame. In fact, he said, he fondly remembers Griffith teasing him mercilessly about the folly of opening his Christmas Shop, which is still in business.
“He went around telling everybody ‘Eddie Greene is crazy. He’s going to lose his shirt!’ ” Greene said, laughing.
After The Lost Colony costume shop burned down in 2007, Griffith donated his Sir Walter Raleigh sword to help restore the costume supply. And when the new shop reopened, Griffith cut the ribbon and stayed at the reception for a little, sitting on a chair greeting people and grinning his trademark mega-watt smile that never dimmed with age.One of Griffith’s final odes to the Outer Banks was a music video he made in 2008 with country music star Brad Paisley. Wearing a flannel shirt and overalls, Griffith appears as an other-worldly adviser to Paisley as they sit on a bench at a mall, which was shot at Tanger Outlet in Nags Head.
When Paisley makes some calls on his cell phone, Griffith appears out of nowhere and asks him in his folksy voice, “You waitin’ on a woman?” As the video cuts between scenes of Paisley singing and Griffith, it soon becomes apparent that Griffith is no longer of this world and is waiting to be joined by his beloved, telling Paisley he’s been “waitin’ on a woman” since 1952.
In the last scene, Griffith, dressed in white, sits alone on a bench on an empty Pea Island beach. “Honey, take your time,” he says, “cause I don’t mind waitin’ on a woman.”
Waitin’ on a Woman won Video of the Year at the County Music Awards and was nominated for the Video of the Year at the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.
See what people are saying:
Join the discussion: