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George Lindsey added a new nickname to the vernacular: Goober

May 07, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • George Lindsey, shown in 1982, first appeared on the "Andy Griffith Show" in 1964. After Griffith left the series in 1968, Lindsey continued to play Goober on the sequel series, “Mayberry R.F.D.”
George Lindsey, shown in 1982, first appeared on the "Andy Griffith… (Associated Press )

George Lindsey was the No. 1 most-searched term on Google at one point today, which means that many people were asking, "Who is George Lindsey?"

What a bunch of Goobers.

For nearly 30 years, Lindsey was a staple on prime-time television, playing Goober Pyle, a loveable hillbilly hayseed whose name has since transcended the role, coming to mean a clueless but well-meaning goofball.

Lindsey was part of an ensemble cast on what many believe to be one of the best shows in TV history: "The Andy Griffith Show." That show and the role of Goober Pyle epitomize TV of a different era, a time when the medium was celebrated for its escapist ways and made no apologies for it.

Lindsey, 83, died in Nashville on Sunday morning after a brief illness. He played the good-natured gas station auto mechanic on "The Andy Griffith Show" starting in 1964. (His character was cousin to the show's Gomer Pyle, played by Jim Nabors.) Lindsey stuck around even after the show was retooled and renamed "Mayberry R.F.D."; it was cancelled in 1971.

Goober Pyle was a role that Lindsey would reprise on the country music comedy show "Hee Haw," which ran from 1972 to 1992.

"He played a stereotype, a small town hick ... the 'hillbilly' role," TV historian Robert Thompson said. "But he brought a lovability to it."

For many TV fans and followers, "The Andy Griffith Show" ranks as one of the best shows ever made in part because it excelled at capturing a particular time and place in America. The fictional North Carolina town where the show was set -- Mayberry -- remains shorthand for a simple, wholesome slice of Americana.

"That show fleshed out Mayberry in a way that few shows are ever able to do, even shows that are shot on location," Thompson said.

The show was on the air during some of the most tumultuous years in U.S. history -- the 1960s. Yet it included no utterance of social and political unrest, and certainly no mention of Vietnam, Thompson said.

"Think about what was really taking place in the South at that time -- segregation, lynchings -- and there was none of that on the show," said Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. "It was total escapism."

We have to point out that Lindsey was more than just a Goober.

He was a philanthropist who drummed up support for the Alabama Special Olympics, raising more than $1 million for the event as well as other charities.

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rene.lynch@latimes.com

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