Why did everyone’s favorite Sheriff, Andy Griffth, not have any children of his own? There’s actually a tragic reason that he forced to adopt children instead of fathering them himself. Watch until the end of this video as we explore the sad reality behind Andy Griffith’s fatherhood, and the bad luck that followed.
Sheriff Andy Taylor
Andy Griffith was one of television’s most beloved actors during the 60s thanks to his leading role as Sheriff Andy Taylor in the Andy Griffith Show. Sheriff Andy was a stand-up guy, and viewers enjoyed the wholesome relationship he had with other characters. However, the most memorable part of the show was his relationship with Opie. Throughout the Andy Griffith Show, Andy was a role model to Opie and the real-life actor, Ron Howard. Many of us watching at home also found inspiration in their relationship, as Sheriff Andy Taylor widely regarded as one of the best TV dads of all time.
Why Andy Griffith Couldn’t Have Children
Sadly, the father we saw in Andy Taylor on television isn’t quite what Andy Griffith delivered off-screen. For starters, he had no biological children of his own. The only children he had two children he adopted with his wife, Barbara Edwards, and this family was far from perfect.
Andy and Barbara met in 1949 while studying music at the University of California. They decided to married, and although they both wanted to have children, they discovered that they couldn’t because of Andy’s sterility. Of course, this was unknown to the public until just recently, when Ron Howard revealed it in his book, “The Boys”.
As you might expect, being a child on the set of a television show causes you to grow up quickly. Ron Howard explains that adults surrounded him at all times, and people would often forget that there was a child around. This meant that he overheard a lot of mature conversations that wouldn’t otherwise have happened in front of someone his age. It was during one of these conversations that Andy Griffith opened up about the reason he couldn’t father any children.
According to the Sheriff himself, Andy Griffith became sterile after catching a severe case of the mumps as a child. For anyone who isn’t aware, mumps is a highly contagious disease that causes swelling in the face and neck. While it wasn’t a particularly lethal disease, it commonly caused sterility in men. Unfortunately, Andy Griffith was one of the unlucky people who suffered from this effect.
A mumps vaccine became available in the late 1960s, and thus the disease no longer poses a severe threat to the population. However, given that Andy Griffith grew up well before the vaccine was available, he was unable to protect himself from mumps and its symptoms.
Ron Howard’s Virgin Ears
Andy Griffith knew about his sterility for years, but it only became known to others after he opened up about it on set. Of course, this came at a cost for the young Ron Howard, who learned these mature topics at quite an early age.
In his book, he shares that Andy Griffith is one of the most uninhibited storytellers, so it’s possible this wasn’t the only incident of an inappropriate story. However, Howard said this knowledge left him feeling scandalized, mostly because he didn’t even know what it meant to be sterile. While he somewhat understood the repercussions due to the context of Andy’s story, the subject of sterility was all too foreign for what he called his “virgin ears”.
It’s no surprise that Andy Griffith and Ron Howard shared a close relationship during their time on the show, but it was not close enough for Griffith to be explaining the birds and the bees to the young actor. Andy was not shy about making friends on set, as he shared camaraderie with everyone on the production team. However, this conversation was one that could only happen between father and son.
So, Ron went to his father, Rance, for clarification. On their way home from the set that day, Rance explained the threat of mumps and what it meant to be sterile. Rance admitted that he and many others from their generation came down with mumps, but most were lucky not to have it as bad as Andy Griffith did. Luckily, this is a disease that Ron Howard and newer generations don’t have to fear.
Andy Griffith’s Real-Life Fatherhood
Despite not being able to father his own children, Andy still adopted two children with his wife. This included a daughter named Dixie and a son named Sam.
Sadly, the story takes a darker turn when it comes to how Andy Griffith was as a father in real life. Many fans of the Andy Griffith show likely expect the real-life actor to be just as good a father as he is on television. But, perhaps the expectations were set too high. Due to his obligations as an actor, Andy Griffith neglected a lot of his responsibilities as a father. He later ended up divorcing his wife Barbara to marry Greek actress Solica Casuto. This made things even worse on the children, as the only parental figures they had ever known were now split up for good.
Andy’s daughter Dixie spoke out about this time in her life. She’s mentioned that she never coped with the change well. Interestingly, her stepmother advised her not to go into acting, which was why she never got into the business. Sadly, Andy’s son didn’t handle life so well.
The Tragedy of Andy Griffith Jr.
After the divorce of Andy and Barbara, Sam descended into alcoholism. It wasn’t long before this led to broader drug addiction and various run-ins with the law. Sam also developed mental health problems and anger issues. In fact, he was arrested for domestic abuse after hitting his pregnant wife, a pregnancy that tragically ended in a miscarriage. Sam was later convicted and sentenced to 3 years in jail. This sentence was later extended due to violent behavior while in jail.
Eventually, the turmoils of Sam’s life became too much for the family to handle. While they tried to support him and get him to rehab, he drifted further and further away. Andy Griffith essentially disowned him, and even Dixie had to cut him off.
After years of exhausting his body with drugs and alcohol, Sam Griffith developed cirrhosis of the liver, which would cost him his life. In his final days, he wanted to reconcile with his father and the rest of his family. He wrote Andy Griffith a letter, in which he apologized for his actions and asked for forgiveness. Sadly, the letter never made it to Andy. Sam was found dead with the letter still in his hand.
Andy Griffith Never Recovered from Losing His Son
After Sam passed, Andy Griffith was never quite the same. His daughter said he was devastated by his passing and that it affected him on a very deep level. Perhaps the most tragic detail in this story is that Andy Griffith didn’t attend his son’s funeral.
Due to his massive fame as Sheriff Andy Taylor, there would be too much paparazzi at the funeral for him to show up. Given how fragile Andy was during this time, he decided that it was better for him not to go at all. It seems his television role as a father may have prevented him from giving fatherhood his all in real life.
For many years after, Andy blamed himself for Sam’s death. He felt that he was responsible for what happened to him, and that he could’ve lived longer if Andy were a better father. It’s no secret that Andy Griffith himself struggled with addiction for these reasons and later passed with many unresolved sorrows.
Luckily, we still have the iconic Andy Taylor to remember Andy Griffith by, and perhaps that was the best version Andy. Do you think Sheriff Andy Taylor is the best television father of all time, or do you think someone else deserves that title? Let us know in the comments below! And if you enjoyed this video, be sure to click like, subscribe to the channel and activate the notification bell so you never miss a video.