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Mayberry in mourning: Andy Griffith dies

  • Andy Griffith is dead at age 86
  • Actor best known for 'Andy Griffith Show' and 'Matlock'
  • Put little Mount Airy and 'Mayberry' on the map
  • Pastor who taught the 'Gospel According to Andy Griffith' joins HLN's Evening Express at 6:45pm ET
Mayberry in mourning: Andy Griffith dies

See the real-life Mayberry

See the real-life Mayberry

Andy Griffith dead at 86

Andy Griffith dead at 86

Andy Griffith, 86, an award-winning actor and singer, best known for his starring roles in “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Matlock,” died Tuesday in his Roanoke Island, North Carolina, vacation home, HLN has confirmed.

"Andy Griffith passed away at his home, peacefully. He has been laid to rest on his beloved Roanoke Island," according to a statement from Andy Griffith's family. He died due to an unspecified illness, the family said.

Andrew Samuel Griffith was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina and graduated with a music degree from the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill. He started in show business in the 1950s, with frequent appearances on TV staples like the “Ed Sullivan Show,” according to the IMDB, the International Movie Database.

His most groundbreaking work was as a doting father and sheriff of the fictional town of Mayberry on “The Andy Griffith Show,” which ran on CBS from 1960 to 1968. The show's intro featured a folksy whistle that became small-town America's theme song.

Read more: 10 things we learned from 'Andy Griffith'

Cast as a single father, Griffith’s easy manner was a hit as the show was one of the first TV sitcoms to shed light on the plight of raising a child alone (along with "My Three Sons"). Of course, he was never really alone. Actor Don Knotts won numerous Emmys for his portrayal as Deputy Barney Fife. The show also launched the career of actor-filmmaker Ron Howard, who played his son, little Opie.

Mount Airy still holds an annual Mayberry Days festival in honor of Griffith, a hometown hero.

Emergency medical crews responded Tuesday morning to his home, according to Sheriff J.D. “Doug” Doughtie. The news quickly circulated on social media sites. On Twitter, news of Griffith's passing struck a nostalgic chord with fans. "Andy Griffith dead. A day of mourning in North Carolina," tweeted Billy L.

Brian V. tweeted: “While too young to have memories of The Andy Griffith Show I was a fan of Matlock. Sad to hear of his passing this am.”

President Barack Obama released a statement Tuesday hailing Griffith's accomplishments:

“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.” 

Wife: Andy was 'prepared for the day'

Griffith’s wife Cindi released a statement Tuesday, saying: ““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.” 

“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," his family said in a statement.

The actor made his big-screen debut in 1957’s “A Face in the Crowd,” before a successful run on TV.

 In 1996, he won a Grammy for a Gospel album Best Southern Gospel, Country Gospel or Bluegrass Gospel Album for “I Love to Tell the Story – 25 Timeless Hymns.”

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