Actor Andy Griffith, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 86, wasn’t just the beloved sheriff of fictional Mayberry, N.C., or the titular defense lawyer in “Matlock.” Griffith also played a prominent role in supporting Democratic politicians, usually in his home state of North Carolina.
Griffith’s role in politics was limited to endorsements. Though he was rumored to be a possible Democratic candidate to run against the late Sen. Jesse Helms in 1990, he ended the short-lived speculation.
“I’m an actor. That’s all I’ve ever known and all I’ve ever done,” then-state Sen. Marc Basnight quoted Griffith as saying during a call regarding his potential candidacy in 1989.
Griffith is cited as one of the keys to former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley’s victory in 2000 over rival Richard Vinroot in the so-called “Mayberry Miracle.” The actor appeared in several last-minute ads for Easley, stepping up right as the tide turned in favor of the former state attorney general.
He also endorsed Easley’s successor, current Gov. Bev Perdue, declaring in an ad: “Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina with Bev Perdue as governor.”
Outside of his home state, Griffith was a supporter of President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, reprising his role from “The Andy Griffith Show” alongside fictional son Ron Howard for a now-defunct ad on the website Funny or Die.
“People are funny. Sometimes change scares them. They’d rather keep doing the same old things that have been messing them up than change to the thing that can help them,” Griffith told Howard in a not-so-tacit reference to perceived similarities between Republican candidate John McCain and President George W. Bush.
“North Carolina has lost its favorite son,” Perdue said in a statement. “Throughout his career, he represented everything that was good about North Carolina: a small town boy and UNC graduate who took a light-hearted approach to some of the attributes he grew up with and turned them into a spectacularly successful career.”
Obama also released a statement in the wake of Griffith’s death, calling him “a performer of extraordinary talent.”
“Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Andy Griffith this morning,” Obama said. “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.”