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Getty images - Twitter.com/LeviRiggs
Source: Getty images - Twitter.com/LeviRiggs

Andy Griffith's Only Living Kid Says His Son's Death 'Wasn't His Fault' as He Was an 'Absolutely Great Dad'

Esther NJeri
Jul 23, 2022
03:50 P.M.
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Renowned actor Andy Griffith was estranged from his son Sam for years. When Sam passed on, Griffith's daughter Dixie, who always considered Griffith a wonderful dad, rushed to his defense.

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Andy Griffith met his first wife, Barbara Edward, while they were both students at the University of North Carolina. They married in 1949, the same year Griffith graduated with a degree in music.

Soon after, the couple settled into married life, and Griffith started teaching music in high school. After saving for a few years, they traveled to New York to establish a career in the music business.

Andy Griffith sits on a sofa with his first wife, Barbara Edwards, circa 1965 | Source: Getty Images

Andy Griffith sits on a sofa with his first wife, Barbara Edwards, circa 1965 | Source: Getty Images

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The auditions did not pan out as the couple had expected, and when the judges told him not to quit his day job, they returned to North Caroline sad but determined. Hell-bent on making it in film, they honed an act that would be the genesis of their fame.

Griffith developed the spoken word piece "What It Was, Was Football," a monologue about a college football game, as seen by a naive country preacher who accidentally attends the game and is entirely puzzled by it.

The monologue thrust Griffith into sudden fame, which would soon become a double-sided sword. He and Barbara had longed for such success for a long while, but Barbara soon became unhappy in her marriage.

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Andy Griffith sits on a sofa with his first wife, Barbara Edwards, circa 1965 | Source: Getty Images

Andy Griffith sits on a sofa with his first wife, Barbara Edwards, circa 1965 | Source: Getty Images

As Griffith's comedic career skyrocketed, Barbara stayed home and cared for the family. When broadcaster Ed Murrow asked her if she still sang and danced, she replied between clenched teeth:

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"Not right now, Ed. I guess one career in the family is enough."

She disclosed how hard it was to be a comedian's wife and how she was constantly giving and satisfying the other's needs. "Because a comic is like a child. Everything revolves around him." She shared.

Promotional headshot portrait of actor Andy Griffith, for director Norman Taurog's film, 'Onionhead'. | Source: Getty Images

Promotional headshot portrait of actor Andy Griffith, for director Norman Taurog's film, 'Onionhead'. | Source: Getty Images

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By the late 60s, their marriage was falling apart, and Barbara's nephew, Mike, recalls noticing a great distance between them. He saw Griffith smoking more than usual and always appearing gloomy while Barbara continuously took alcohol and cried.

In June 1972, Barbara had had enough and filed for divorce. Griffith got custody of their fourteen-year-old son Sam and Barbara went away with their 12-year-old daughter, Dixie. However, the children would spend summers with Griffith in Carolina.

A few years after their divorce, Barbara married Michael St. Clair. Unfortunately, she passed on in 1980 in Beverly Hills, California, at 53.

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WHAT KIND OF FATHER WAS ANDY GRIFFITH?

Portrait of CBS television actor Andy Griffith on June 16, 1959. | Source: Getty Images

Portrait of CBS television actor Andy Griffith on June 16, 1959. | Source: Getty Images

Even before he and Barbara divorced, Griffith loved being a father to his two children. Dixie retold how he always found time to play with her and her brother. She recalled:

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"I thought he was an absolutely great dad."

Whenever the "Fantasy Island" actor was not working, he would spend time with his children in North Carolina, playing volleyball, water skiing, and playing in the pool. One of Dixie's happiest moments with her dad was when he would carry her on his shoulders.

American actor Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor in a promotional portrait for American sitcom 'The Andy Griffith Show', circa 1965 | Source: Getty Images

American actor Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor in a promotional portrait for American sitcom 'The Andy Griffith Show', circa 1965 | Source: Getty Images

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On the other hand, while Sam adored his father, he always struggled with the pressure of being his son. He began drinking, and as his alcoholism became more prominent, Griffith cut off all contact with him and told his friends he had emotionally disinherited his son.

Sam spent years having trouble with the law, and in 1992, a California judge placed the then 32-year-old Sam on probation after he admitted to abusing his pregnant wife. They divorced subtly soon after.

Andy Griffith promotional photo for the ABC tv movie "Winter Kill,". circa 1974. | Source: Getty Images

Andy Griffith promotional photo for the ABC tv movie "Winter Kill,". circa 1974. | Source: Getty Images

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Sadly, Sam, who'd built himself a career as a real-estate developer, died of alcoholism in 1996, aged 38. He and his father had remained estranged until his tragic demise. Upon his death, Dixie defended her dad's honor, saying:

"My brother had some troubles, but it wasn't my dad's fault."

Andy Griffith circa 1982 in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images

Andy Griffith circa 1982 in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images

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Griffith, who had been working on "Matlock," did not attend Sam's funeral due to the publicity it attracted. Even as a Hollywood star, Griffith still loved his privacy and hated speculations about his life.

Sam's death greatly affected Griffith, and he never once spoke about it publicly. Only his faith and family helped him survive the grief. Oh, and his love for his third wife, Cindi Knight.

GRIFFITH FOUND HAPPINESS WITH HIS THIRD WIFE

Andy Griffith and wife Cindi Knight attend the party for 33rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 13, 1981 at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

Andy Griffith and wife Cindi Knight attend the party for 33rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 13, 1981 at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

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After his divorce from Barbara became final in 1972, Griffith married his second wife, Greek actress Solica Cassuto. However, their marriage lasted a short while before they quit in 1981.

Shortly after, he met Cindi Knight, a dancer, while doing summer theatre. They married in 1983, and Griffith would admit to how happy Knight made him. "She and I are not only married. We're partners. She helps me very much." He would once confess.

The "Scattering Dad" star maintained a loving relationship with his daughter Dixie, but they saw less and less of each other as the actor got busy with his life with Knight and his hectic schedule on "Matlock."

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Andy Griffith on the set of "Matlock" on March 30, 1992 | Source: Getty Images

Andy Griffith on the set of "Matlock" on March 30, 1992 | Source: Getty Images

In 1995, as they wrapped up season nine of "Matlock," Griffith moved back to North Carolina, where Dixie says he felt at home. The film legend would walk into stores shirtless and barefoot. "That's where he was free," Dixie says.

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Sadly, the sheriff of Mayberry passed on on July 3, 2012, from an unspecified illness at his home on Roanoke Island. To the chagrin of many, he was buried only hours after death.

Observers felt it was uncommon for someone to be buried so soon after death, as traditional funeral arrangements allowed for some time between death and burial to allow loved ones to pay their respects.

Andy Griffith during CBS at 75 - Commemorating CBS'S 75th Anniversary - Arrivals at The Hammerstein Theater on November 2, 2003 in New York City. He passed on in 2012. | Source: Getty Images

Andy Griffith during CBS at 75 - Commemorating CBS'S 75th Anniversary - Arrivals at The Hammerstein Theater on November 2, 2003 in New York City. He passed on in 2012. | Source: Getty Images

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According to a funeral spokesman, Griffith, who'd passed on at 7 a.m, was buried at 11:30 a.m. He could not disclose any further details due to the matter's sensitivity. However, he shared that the family's wishes had to be respected whatever the circumstance:

"This was the wish of his family."

Luckily, "The Gift of Love" actor's legacy lives on through his numerous films, TV shows, and plays. Dixie says his fans still love him as he brought light, joy, and laughter to millions of people. She was sure her father would be remembered by those he impacted for a long time.

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