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How Each Andy Griffith Show Cast Member Died

The Andy Griffith Show holds a special place in many people’s hearts. The show’s gift to its audience was more than just the down-home wisdom of the plain-spoken Sheriff Andy Taylor. It gave us a place where all mistakes are forgiven, friendships last forever, and the cast of characters felt like family.

The Andy Griffith Show aired on CBS from 1960 to 1968. Given that it’s been more than 5 decades since the final episode aired, it’s understandable that most of the cast members have died in the intervening years.

In this video, we’re going to look at how each of the Andy Griffith Show cast members died. Be sure to watch until the end of the video to hear who the sole remaining cast member is and what they’re up to today.

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Don Knotts

Don Knotts was a beloved comedian who was well-known for many of his roles but none were as popular as Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show. Born Jesse Donald Knotts on July 21, 1924, he showed interest in comedy and ventriloquism early on.

After World War II, he and his first wife, Kay Metz, moved to New York where his career started to take off. He got his start in radio and moved to the stage when he was cast in No Time for Sergeants in 1955. The play was made into a movie in 1958, which was the first time Knotts worked with Andy Griffith.

Two years later, in 1960, the two reunited for The Andy Griffith Show. Over the show’s eight-year run, Knotts earned five Emmys for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Comedy.

Knotts died on February 24, 2006 at 81 years old, due to complications from lung cancer. In spite of his failing health, he continued acting almost right up to his death, lending his voice to several animated characters in his later years.

His long-time friend Andy Griffith was one of the last visitors to see Knotts prior to his death.

Frances Bavier

Frances Bavier played the role of Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show. She was Sheriff Andy’s aunt and housekeeper. After she retired from acting, she moved to a North Carolina town that was very similar to the fictional town of Mayberry in the show.

Bavier had a reputation for being somewhat remote on the show. Unfortunately, that led to her getting a reputation for being difficult to work with. According to Ron Howard, who played little Opie Taylor on the show, she mostly kept to herself. He thinks she appreciated how much of a success the show was but didn’t feel like she was part of what the boys were up to.

In her final days, Bavier lived in Siler City, North Carolina where she rarely left her home. She became isolated in her later years, with her home described as having peeling plaster, frayed carpets, and worn upholstery after she died. She had 14 cats when she died, which contributed to the condition of her home.

Bavier spent two weeks in the hospital in late 1989. She was released in early December but died at home just a few days later, on December 6, as a result of congestive heart failure, myocardial infarcation, coronary artery disease, and atherosclerosis.

George Lindsey

George Lindsay played the part of the grinning Goober on The Andy Griffith Show. After the end of the show, he moved over to Hee Haw, playing the same role for nearly 30 years.

Goober was the jovial, beanie-wearing service station attendant in Mayberry. He joined the show in 1964 when Jim Nabors, who played Gomer Pyle, left the show. Goober had been mentioned on the show as Gomer’s cousin so it was a natural fit.

Lindsey felt the show’s cast was the best acting ensemble on TV. He thought the scripts were terrific, with Andy Griffith being the best script constructionist he’d ever worked with. This helped elevate George’s acting to a higher level to match the actors around him.

Lindsey died on May 6, 2012, from heart failure at the age of 83. At the time, Griffith said George Lindsey was his friend and he had great respect for his acting talent and human spirit. They spoke often by telephone, with the last conversation being only a few days before Lindsey’s death. The last words they said to one another were “I love you.”

Howard McNear

Howard McNear played one of the most-loved characters on The Andy Griffith Show, the town’s barber and dedicated gossip, Floyd the Barber. The men in Mayberry regularly gathered in his shop for a trim and some serious gab sessions.

McNear suffered a stroke in 1963 that left him almost paralyzed on the left side of his body. He was in bad shape for quite a while and missed nearly two years of the show. Most series would have either written him out or replaced him with another actor but Andy Griffith wouldn’t hear of it.

Griffith got in touch with McNear’s wife, who thought it would be good for him to get back to work. Because of his mobility limitations, he was written into scenes where he could be sitting or use a stand the crew built to support him. This let him stand behind the barber chair and use one hand. His mind hadn’t been affected by the stroke so his comedic timing and acting skills hadn’t changed.

Unfortunately, two years after returning to the show, McNear had another stroke and he died on January 3, 1969. Most of the show’s cast attended his funeral, which was described by show producer Richard Linke as the only funeral he’d ever been to where there were more laughs than tears.

Aneta Corsaut

Aneta Corsaut played schoolteacher Helen Crump on The Andy Griffith Show, later becoming Sheriff Andy Taylor’s girlfriend.

Corsaut made her small screen debut in a 1955 episode of Producers’ Showcase and moved into movies with an appearance in The Blog, a very successful sci-fi horror film from 1958. She went on to play roles in a handful of other movies over the next 20 years, including Good Neighbor Sam in 1964, A Rage to Live in 1965, Blazing Saddles in 1974, and The Toolbox Murders in 1978.

She made guest appearances on a number of TV series during the 1960s but it was her role as Helen Crump on The Andy Griffith Show that she would be best remembered for. She joined the show in the third season with a relatively minor role as Mayberry’s schoolteacher but became a main character after becoming Andy’s girlfriend. Crump and Taylor were married in the first episode of the show’s spinoff series, Mayberry RFD.

Corsaut would work with Griffith again on his procedural series Matlock in the 1980s. She reprised her role as Helen Crump in 1986’s Return to Mayberry and The Andy Griffith Show Reunion in 1993. That would be her final screen appearance before her death on November 6, 1995 at the age of 62 due to complications from cancer.

Jack Dodson

Jack Dodson played the officious county clerk Howard Sprague on The Andy Griffith Show and its spinoff Mayberry RFD. He was a veteran of Broadway, film, and television but was best known for his role on the show.

Dodson graduated from Carnegie Tech’s drama department and went on to Broadway productions of Our Town, You Can’t Take It With You, and Hughie. It was during his time on stage in Hughie that Andy Griffith spotted him.

His role on the show started in 1967, only a year before it ended its run. He also appeared in many other popular shows including The Fugitive, Hawaii Five-O, Barney Miller, and Newhart. He also worked with Griffith again on his show Matlock.

Dodson died on September 16, 1994 at age 63 due to heart failure.

Andy Griffith

Andy Griffith, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor on the show that bears his name, was well-known for many roles but Sheriff Andy is the one that most people immediately think of.

His life nearly went in a completely different direction as he almost became a musical pastor when he was young. In school, he wasn’t athletic, wasn’t a very good student, and his family didn’t have a lot of money. Music was the thing that made him feel like somebody.

It was the switch from a sociology major to a music major while at the University of North Carolina that led him down the path to stardom. He asked the bishop whether he could major in music and still become a minister, to which the answers was no. The rest is history.

Interestingly, Griffith did stick with music in spite of his popularity as an actor. Over the years, he released a number of albums of hymns and other old-time songs.

Griffith died on July 3, 2012 at 86 years old after suffering a heart attack. His burial took place less than five hours after his death, in the Griffith family cemetery in Dare County, North Carolina. This had been planned for quite some time and the hasty burial was the wish of his family.

Ron Howard

The only surviving cast member from The Andy Griffith Show is Ron Howard, who played Andy’s son Opie Taylor. Howard was only 5 years old when he started playing Opie so the show’s audience got to watch him grow up.

After the show ended, Howard was cast in a lead role in the 1973 film American Graffiti. The following year, he landed the role he is probably best known for, Richie Cunningham on Happy Days. Howard is one of the few child actors who managed a successful transition to adult roles, and he played two iconic characters over those years.

His dream was to direct, however, and he left Happy Days the height of its popularity in 1980. In the years that followed, he proved to have a knack for it with directing credits on films such as Splash, Cocoon, Backdraft, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and The Da Vinci Code.

Howard continues to direct and while he has no interest in returning to acting, he’ll forever be remembered as little Opie Taylor.

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