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Andy Griffith Left Estate to 3rd Wife Instead of His Only Kid ⁠— His Friends Accused Her for Ignoring His Wish

Esther NJeri
Jul 31, 2022
02:30 P.M.
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Renowned actor Andy Griffith wanted his North Carolina beachfront home turned into a museum to hold all his career memories. Still, months after his death, his third wife obtained a permit to demolish the house, a decision many of the actor's friends criticized.

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Griffith and his daughter Dixie had always been close, but they seemed to drift apart after the actor married his third wife. During his final days, he called his daughter on the phone for one last conversation.

Dixie recalls him asking if she was at peace with certain aspects of her life and sharing with her the peace and calm he'd found. Dixie says the conversation felt like the "Dads" actor was imparting her wisdom to carry forward.

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

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She recalls: "Because of the nature, because of the context of the conversation, I knew, I just knew that was the last time I was going to talk to him. He told me he loved me; I told him I loved him."

Sadly, on July 2, 2012, Griffith fell gravely ill but chose not to go to the hospital. He gathered around his close friends and family and said his goodbyes. Early the following morning, the actor breathed his last at his home on Roanoke Island.

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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Before his death, the "Matlock" actor had imparted specific instructions about his burial, and his family followed them to the latter. He was buried four and a half hours after he died, so the paparazzi did not get a chance to storm his home and film his final moments.

At the time of his death, the question of his fortune wasn't so clear. Unfortunately, the rushed burial arrangements also meant that many of his relatives and close friends did not learn about his death until after he was buried, so many did not attend his funeral. Sadly, Dixie was one of them.

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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Though pained from not making it to her dad's funeral, Dixie understood that Griffith was a relatively private person and, despite being a movie star, hated the attention that the media imposed. She would recall:

"Apparently, that was his wish. He didn't want a funeral. He didn't want a circus. He didn't want a media frenzy."

"How do I gather the girls and get on a plane and go? But I understand if that was his wish, and I have to be respectful of what he wanted." She continued.

GRIFFITH'S THIRD WIFE AND HER FINAL WORDS

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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Following the actor's unfortunate demise, his third wife, Cindi Knight, said that he knew Griffith to be a man of strong Christian faith and was ready for the day the Lord would call him home.

She shared that Griffith was her love, constant companion, partner, and best friend. The two had been together for nearly three decades after meeting while the actor was doing summer theatre in 1983.

Larry Jones, Andy Griffith and Cindi Knight at the 2004 TV Land Awards airing March 17, 2004 | Source: Getty Images

Larry Jones, Andy Griffith and Cindi Knight at the 2004 TV Land Awards airing March 17, 2004 | Source: Getty Images

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Griffith had constantly revealed his love for his actress and dancer wife, saying he had found happiness with her after his two previous marriages failed. He would confess:

"She and I are not only married. We're partners. She helps me very much."

Even though Griffith maintained a loving relationship with his daughter all her life, things toned down after he married Knight. They began seeing less and less of each other as the actor got busy with his marriage life and hectic schedule on "Matlock."

KNIGHT WENT AGAINST THE ACTOR'S FINAL WISH

Andy Griffith as Benjamin Matlock on season 5 of "Matlock." | Source: Getty Images

Andy Griffith as Benjamin Matlock on season 5 of "Matlock." | Source: Getty Images

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The actor's only son, Sam's passing in 1996, meant that upon his death, the actor's wealth would be split equally between Dixie and Knight, each receiving a hefty $30 million.

No one had any qualms about the distribution of wealth between his only living child and his wife. However, an issue that raised concern among the actor's friends upon his death was the question of his waterfront property in Carolina, where he had lived for most of his adult life.

Griffith did not indicate any details about the property in the will, written two months before he died. However, years before his death, the actor had spoken extensively to his friend, William Ivey Long, the Tony Award-winning costume designer, about it, relaying his desire to preserve the home as a museum.

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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

Griffith wanted the museum to feature mementos of his music and TV acting careers. Long confessed that the pair had not discussed whether Griffith wanted his museum-home to compete with the Andy Griffith Museum in Griffith's hometown of Mount Airy.

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Even so, it was public knowledge that the dream was to make the home a museum, and thus when Knight obtained a permit to demolish the home in March 2013, only months after Griffith died, many of the actor's friends were upset.

Ira David Wood III, an executive director on "The Lost Colony," recalled how he and many other actor friends would visit Griffith's house, take a pontoon boat to a sandbar and play volleyball for hours.

Actor Andy Griffith poses backstage at the 2nd Annual TV Land Awards held on March 7, 2004 at The Hollywood Palladium, in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

Actor Andy Griffith poses backstage at the 2nd Annual TV Land Awards held on March 7, 2004 at The Hollywood Palladium, in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

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He was shocked to learn about Knight's plans to demolish the house that held so many memories for him and many other friends of Griffith. He would state:

"I always assumed the property would be eventually preserved and opened to the public."

He, however, disclosed that he was sure Knight had her reasons for demolishing the house but hoped she was not acting too fast and making a possible mistake.

Andy Griffith, winner of the Legend Award for "The Andy Griffith Show" at the 2nd Annual TV Land Awards in 2004 | Source: Getty Images

Andy Griffith, winner of the Legend Award for "The Andy Griffith Show" at the 2nd Annual TV Land Awards in 2004 | Source: Getty Images

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Della Basnight of Manteo, whose family was friends with Griffith since she was a child, said that despite her disappointment in the news of the property being torn down, she understood that Knight had every right to do with the home as she willed.

However, demolishing it did not sit well with her, and she mused: "When he gave her the power to do anything, I don't think he thought she would want to do that."

Basnight recalled the beachfront property being the first thing Griffith bought when he first made good money and raised his two children there. It was thus a shock because she always thought it would be a permanent fixture and remain intact for decades.

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