Actor, director Andy Griffith dies at 86

Published: Tuesday, July 03, 2012 @ 10:07 AM
Updated: Tuesday, July 03, 2012 @ 12:29 PM

 

 

Andy Griffith, who made homespun Southern wisdom his trademark as the wise sheriff in "The Andy Griffith Show" and the rumpled defense lawyer in "Matlock," died Tuesday. He was 86.

Griffith died about 7 a.m. at his coastal home in Manteo, Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie said in a statement. The family will release further information, Doughtie said.

He had suffered a heart attack and underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2000.

Griffith's career spanned more than a half-century on stage, film and television, but he would always be best known as Sheriff Andy Taylor in the television show set in a North Carolina town not too different from Griffith's own hometown of Mount Airy, N.C.

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Griffith set the show in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C., where Sheriff Taylor was the dutiful nephew who ate pickles that tasted like kerosene because they were made by his loving Aunt Bee, played by the late Frances Bavier. He was a widowed father who offered gentle guidance to son Opie, played by Ron Howard, who grew up to become the Oscar-winning director of "A Beautiful Mind."

Knotts was the goofy Deputy Barney Fife, while Jim Nabors joined the show as Gomer Pyle, the unworldly, lovable gas pumper.

On "Matlock," which aired from 1986 through 1995, Griffith played a cagey Harvard-educated defense attorney who was Southern-bred and -mannered with a practice in Atlanta.

In his rumpled seersucker suit in a steamy courtroom (air conditioning would have spoiled the mood), Matlock could toy with a witness and tease out a confession like a folksy Perry Mason.

The character — law-abiding, fatherly and lovable — was much like Sheriff Andy Taylor with silver hair and a shingle.

In a 2007 interview with The Associated Press, Griffith said "The Andy Griffith Show," which initially aired from 1960 to 1968, was seen somewhere in the world every day. A reunion movie, "Return to Mayberry," was the top-rated TV movie of the 1985-86 season.

"The Andy Griffith Show" was a loving portrait of the town where few grew up but many wished they did — a place where all foibles are forgiven and friendships are forever. Villains came through town and moved on, usually changed by their stay in Mayberry. That was all a credit to Griffith, said Craig Fincannon, who met Griffith in 1974.

"I see so many TV shows about the South where the creative powers behind it have no life experience in the South," Fincannon said. "What made 'The Andy Griffith Show' work was Andy Griffith himself — the fact that he was of this dirt and had such deep respect for the people and places of his childhood. A character might be broadly eccentric, but the character had an ethical and moral base that allowed us to laugh with them and not at them. And Andy Griffith's the reason for that."

Griffith's career included stints on Broadway, notably "No Time for Sergeants"; movies such as Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd"; and records. He was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts Hall of Fame in 1992 and in 2005, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the country's highest civilian honors.

"The Andy Griffith Show" was one of only three series in TV history to bow out at the top of the ratings. (The others were "I Love Lucy" and "Seinfeld.") Griffith said he decided to end it "because I thought it was slipping, and I didn't want it to go down further."

When asked in 2007 to name his favorite episodes, the ones atop Griffith's list were the shows that emphasized Knotts' character. Griffith and Knotts had become friends while performing in "No Time for Sergeants," and remained so until Knotts' death in 2006 at 81.

"The second episode that we shot, I knew Don should be funny and I should play straight for him," Griffith said. "That opened up the whole series because I could play straight for everybody else. And I didn't have to be funny. I just let them be funny."

Letting others get the laughs was something of a role reversal for Griffith, whose career took off after he recorded the comedic monologue "What It Was, Was Football."

That led to his first national television exposure on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1954, and the stage and screen versions as the bumbling draftee in "No Time for Sergeants."

In the drama "A Face in the Crowd," he starred as Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, a local jailbird and amateur singer who becomes a homespun philosopher on national television. As his influence rises, his drinking, womanizing and lust for power are hidden by his handlers.

"Mr. Griffith plays him with thunderous vigor," The New York Times wrote. Said The Washington Post: "He seems to have one of those personalities that sets film blazing."

Griffith said Kazan led him through his role, and it was all a bit overwhelming for someone with, as he put it, just "one little acting course in college."

"He would call me in the morning into his little office there, and he'd tell me all the colors that he wanted to see from my character that day," he recalled in 2007.

"Lonesome Rhodes had wild mood swings. He'd be very happy, he'd be very said, he'd be very angry, very depressed," he said. "And I had to pull all of these emotions out of myself. And it wasn't easy."

His role as Sheriff Taylor seemingly obliterated Hollywood's memory of Griffith as a bad guy. But then, after that show ended, he found roles scarce until he landed a bad-guy role in "Pray for the Wildcats."

Hollywood's memory bank dried up again, he said. "I couldn't get anything but heavies. It's funny how that town is out there. They see you one way."

More recently, Griffith won a Grammy in 1997 for his album of gospel music "I Love to Tell the Story — 25 Timeless Hymns."

In 2007, he appeared in the independent film "Waitress," playing the boss at the diner. The next year, he appeared in Brad Paisley's awarding-winning music video "Waitin' on a Woman."

Griffith was born in 1926 in Mount Airy and as a child sang and played slide trombone in the band at Grace Moravian Church. He studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and for a time contemplated a career in the ministry. But he eventually got a job teaching high school music in Goldsboro.

His acting career began with the role of Sir Walter Raleigh in Paul Green's outdoor pageant, "The Lost Colony," in Manteo. And he remained in the area even after superstardom knocked at his door.

Griffith protected his privacy by building a circle of friends who revealed little to nothing about him. Strangers who asked where Griffith lived in Manteo would receive circular directions that took them to the beach, said William Ivey Long, the Tony Award-winning costume designer whose parents were friends with Griffith and his first wife, Barbara.

Griffith helped Long's father build the house where the family lived in a community of bohemian artists with little money, sharing quart jars of homemade vegetable soup with each other.

Both Long and Fincannon recalled Griffith's sneaky tendency to show up unexpectedly — sneaking into the choir at "The Lost Colony," or driving the grand marshals of the local Christmas parade incognito in his 1932 roadster convertible.

Fincannon described Griffith as the symbol of North Carolina, a role that "put heavy pressure on him because everyone felt like he was their best friend. With great grace, he handled the constant barrage of people wanting to talk to Andy Taylor."

He and his first wife, Barbara Edwards, had two children, Sam, who died in 1996, and Dixie. His second wife was Solica Cassuto. Both marriages ended in divorce. He married his third wife, Cindi Knight Griffith, in 1983.

"She and I are not only married, we're partners," Griffith said in 2007. "And she helps me very much with everything."

When asked if the real Griffith was more wise like Sheriff Taylor or cranky like Joe, the diner owner in "Waitress," Griffith said he was a bit of both, and then some.

"I'm not really wise. But I can be cranky," he said. "I can be a lot like Joe. But I'm lot like Andy Taylor, too. And I'm some Lonesome Rhodes."

 

7-year-old girl 'traumatized' after having head shaved at state-run program

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 10:49 PM

(Boston25News.com)
(Boston25News.com)

A mom is furious after she found out her 7-year-old daughter’s head was shaved clean at a state-run program for kids with behavioral needs.

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Denise Robinson’s daughter Tru lives at Little Heroes Home in Dracut, Massachusetts. The biracial girl used to have long locks, but Robinson said the haircut was made without permission and now her is dealing with trauma from the ordeal in addition to a hairless head.

“I feel like my daughter was assaulted and violated,” Robinson said. “They made a game out of it while they were cutting her hair, and after they cut her hair, then they told her oh, it will grow back straight don’t worry.”

That is troubling to Robinson who says aside from her daughter not wanting the haircut, the message is out of line.

“I’m not afraid to say it and talk about the elephant in the room, I believe it’s a biracial matter and by shaving her head close they were somehow implying that straighter hair is better than dread, curly hair,” attorney Richard Kendall said.

Since it happened early this week, Robinson says nobody at Little Heroes Home answered her questions about why it happened, except to say they have authority to cut hair without permission for hygiene purposes. 

“There was no head lice, there was no bedbugs, there was no Rasta locks was going on. Her hair was two ponytails on the side on Saturday, it was braided in the ponytails, there was nothing wrong with her hair,” she said.

It’s left Robinson not just upset, but wondering what else is going on at this state-run program that parents don’t know about.

“What are they doing to these kids?” she said.

WFXT reached out to the Department of Children and Families to ask if it was investigating the issue, officials wouldn’t comment due to privacy issues. 

Little Heroes Group Home did send a statement regarding what happened, saying in part: “We cannot provide any information about any individual served by the program under federal and state law. A review of the circumstances is underway to determine what occurred and, if necessary, appropriate action will be taken.”

Investigators seize $1.5M worth of heroin in Walmart parking lot

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 11:14 PM

The Rockdale County Sheriff's Office confiscated more than $1.5 million worth of heroin in a recent drug bust. (Photo: Rockdale County Sheriff's Office)
The Rockdale County Sheriff's Office confiscated more than $1.5 million worth of heroin in a recent drug bust. (Photo: Rockdale County Sheriff's Office)

A major drug bust in Rockdale County, Georgia, on Wednesday afternoon took more than 10 pounds of heroin off the streets.

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Investigators said undercover deputies with the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office convinced the sellers to meet them in a Walmart parking lot to make a deal.

At that time, authorities recovered nearly 5 kilos of heroin, with a street value of more than $1.5 million. 

Luis Ramirez-Jaramillo and Marco Valdez were arrested during the bust. Both men face charges of trafficking heroin.

After the arrests, deputies went to a home in Conyers where, they said, they recovered an undisclosed amount of drug money.

The bust was conducted by a new Sheriff’s Office Surge Team, which hpes it sends a message to drug dealers.

“We’re not going to let it be a problem in Rockdale County. We’re going to make sure people understand this isn’t the place to do any crimes at all,” said Michael Myers, with the Sheriff’s Office.

The Surge Team is a collaborative effort with local and federal law enforcement agencies.

Study suggests people may be aware they have died after death

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 5:31 PM

An MRI shows a picture of a patient’s brain. Scientists believe new reserach shows the brain may continue functioning after the heart stops beating. 
BSIP/UIG via Getty Images
An MRI shows a picture of a patient’s brain. Scientists believe new reserach shows the brain may continue functioning after the heart stops beating. (BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)

Scientists may be a step closer to solving the mystery surrounding death and what happens next. New research finds a person’s brain is still active after the heart stops beating, so many people actually may be aware that they have died, according to a new report.

>> Read more trending news

Researchers from New York University’s Langone School of Medicine are currently conducting a study to explore how the brain functions after death. 

To do so, they examined individuals who suffered cardiac arrest, but were later revived. The scientists noted that death was defined by when the heart stops and blood stops flowing to the brain.

During the evaluation, many patients were able to recall full conversations and visuals, and in some cases, participants even reported hearing they had been pronounced dead. 

"They'll describe watching doctors and nurses working; they'll describe having awareness of full conversations, of visual things that were going on, that would otherwise not be known to them," lead author Sam Parnia told Live Science.

>> Related: No cure, yet, but scientists may have found the cause of dyslexia

Scientists confirmed the patients’ stories with doctors and nurses present at the time of death, and were stunned to hear what the subjects remembered.

Why is there still brain activity after death?

Brain death is a process. It takes up to 20 seconds before brain waves are no longer detectable. Once they aren’t, a set of cellular processes take place that eventually result in brain death. And this could occur hours after the heart has stopped, Parnia said. 

"If you manage to restart the heart, which is what CPR attempts to do, you'll gradually start to get the brain functioning again. The longer you're doing CPR, those brain cell death pathways are still happening — they're just happening at a slightly slower rate," he said.

The scientists are now expanding their ongoing experiment, which will be the largest of its kind, to investigate the occurrences of consciousness after death and how it may affect the rest of a person’s life if they are revived.

>> Related: After near-death experience, Atlanta teen pursues songwriting dreams

"In the same way that a group of researchers might be studying the qualitative nature of the human experience of 'love.'” Parnia said. 

“For instance, we're trying to understand the exact features that people experience when they go through death, because we understand that this is going to reflect the universal experience we're all going to have when we die."

Teacher put duct tape over 5th-graders’ mouths, school officials say

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 10:17 PM

(Getty file photo)
dspn/Getty Images/iStockphoto
(Getty file photo)(dspn/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A substitute teacher at Maxdale Elementary School in Killeen, Texas, was removed from campus on Thursday after putting duct tape over the mouths of 10 fifth-graders for several minutes.

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Killeen Independent School District spokesman Terry Abbott said in a statement on Thursday afternoon that three other students also put duct tape over their own mouths as a result of the teacher’s actions.

“As soon as school leaders learned of this incident, all 13 students were taken to the school nurse for observation and any treatment necessary,” Abbott said. “All 13 students are well and continued with their classes afterwards.”

Authorities notified Child Protective Services of the incident so it can pursue further investigation.

“The substitute teacher was immediately removed from the classroom and barred from the campus as a result of this outrageous and unconscionable behavior,” the district said.