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Andy Griffith, beloved family TV actor, dies

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"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.

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