Andy Griffith dead at 86, says friend

andy-griffith-gi.jpgAndy Griffith is dead at 86 says a close friend of the legendary actor. Former University of North Carolina president Bill Friday tells North Carolina's WITN that Griffith died early Tuesday (July 3) morning in his home state.

Griffith is best remembered as the affable TV sheriff and star of "The Andy Griffith Show," a role he played from 1960 to 1968 opposite then child star Ron Howard and bumbling deputy Don Knotts. He made a triumphant return to TV in the late 1980s in the legal drama "Matlock."

Griffith was also an accomplished dramatic actor who showed off his considerable chops in movies like 1957's "A Face in the Crowd" in which he played against type as a corrupt evangelical preacher. He continued to work into his older years, appearing in cameos in shows like "Dawson's Creek" and the indie hit "Waitress" (both filmed in his home state of North Carolina).

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According to reports, an ambulance rushed to Griffith's Outer Banks home early Tuesday morning, but quickly confirmed that the actor had passed away.

UPDATE: "Andy Griffith Show" co-star Ron Howard released this statement:

"His love of creating, the joy he took in it whether it was drama or comedy or his music, was inspiring to grow up around. The spirit he created on the set of 'The Andy Griffith Show' was joyful and professional all at once. It was an amazing environment. And I think it was a reflection of the way he felt about having the opportunity to create something that people could enjoy. It was always with respect and passion for the opportunity and really what it could offer people in a very unpretentious and earthy way. He felt he was always working in service of an audience he really respected and cared about. He was a great influence on me. His passing is sad. But he lived and a great rich life."
Photo/Video credit: Getty Images
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