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Andy Griffith, beloved family TV actor, dies

Andy Griffith, who starred in family TV favorites "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Matlock," died today at age 86. His career spanned more than 50 years, but he was best known as Sheriff Andy Taylor.

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This undated file image originally released by Viacom shows cast members from "The Andy Griffith Show," from left, Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife, Ron Howard as Opie Taylor and Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor. Griffith, whose homespun mix of humor and wisdom made "The Andy Griffith Show" an enduring TV favorite, died Tuesday, July 3, 2012 in Manteo, N.C. He was 86.

File/Viacom/AP

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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, Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie said in a statement.

"Mr. Griffith passed away this morning at his home peacefully and has been laid to rest on his beloved Roanoke Island," Doughtie told The Associated Press, reading from a family statement.

The family will release further information, the sheriff 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.

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."

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