Andy Griffith Dies at 86

Iconic "Matlock" actor dies in North Carolina.

July 3, 2012 — -- Andy Griffith, the legendary entertainer who became a household name to millions of TV viewers on "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Matlock," died today. He was 86.

Dare County, N.C., Sheriff Doug Doughtie confirmed Griffith's death to ABC News, saying that the actor passed away at his home on Roanoke Island, N.C., at approximately 7 a.m. ET today. A cause of death has not yet been determined.

In a statement, Griffith's family said the actor passed away "after an illness" with his wife by his side.

Griffith began acting and singing at an early age, starring in productions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he attended college. He debuted on Broadway in the 1950s and soon moved into TV and film.

He garnered Hollywood's attention with his starring role in 1957's "A Face in the Crowd," playing a country boy who schemes his way into TV and politics. In 1960, Griffith landed "The Andy Griffith Show" on CBS, in which he played Sheriff Andy Taylor, a widower and a wise man who kept the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina in check. He starred alongside his friend Don Knotts for five years. Ron Howard also starred as the only child of Sheriff Taylor, Opie.

Howard was one of the first celebrities to tweet a tribute to Griffith. "His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations & shaped my life," he wrote. "I'm forever grateful."

"The Andy Griffith Show" was a hit, and while Knotts won multiple Emmys for his role as Deputy Barney Fife, Griffith was never honored with that award. He left the show in 1968 but returned for the 1986 reunion TV film, "Return to Mayberry," as well as two more reunion specials in 1993 and 2003.

Meanwhile, Griffith dabbled in other TV and music projects. In 1986, he landed the title role on the legal drama "Matlock." Matlock's Southern drawl and uncanny ability to win his cases made the show a ratings winner until its finale in 1995.

In 1997, Griffith won a Grammy for Best Southern, Country of Bluegrass Gospel Album for "I Love to Tell the Story -- 25 Timeless Hymns."

More recently, Griffith took on small roles in such films as 2007's "Waitress" and 2009's "Play The Game." He also made an appearance on a 2001 episode of the TV drama "Dawson's Creek."

Griffith is survived by family members including his third wife, Cindi Knight, and daughter from his first marriage, Dixie Nan Griffith.