DARE COUNTY, N.C. (CBS)- Actor Andy Griffith, whose portrayal of a rural sheriff in a popular 1960s TV show earned him the title of "America's Favorite Sheriff," died Tuesday morning. He was 86.
His death was confirmed in a statement from the Dare County, N.C., sheriff's office.
While Griffith's long career stretched from nightclubs to radio to movies to music, it was a role as a small-town sheriff that made him beloved to millions of Americans.
Viewers tuned in "The Andy Griffith Show" not to watch Sheriff Andy Taylor solve big crimes but to watch him solve the little problems of life in the fictional Mayberry, N.C. Most critics consider the show, which ran from 1960 to 1968, one of the top four or five sitcoms ever shown on television.
Andrew Samuel Griffith was born June 1, 1926, in Mt. Airy, N.C., a town much like Mayberry. He originally wanted a career as a musician but his skills as a storyteller, mixed in with lots of country humor, soon came out.
Griffith graduated with a degree in music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1949. He moved to New York and soon became a regular on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Steve Allen Show" in the 1950s. In 1955, he starred in Broadway's "No Time for Sergeants," earning him a Tony nomination for outstanding supporting actor. Two years later, Griffith made his film debut in "A Face in the Crowd," alongside actress Patricia Neal. In 1960, he found himself with another Tony nomination, this time for best actor in the musical, "Destry Rides Again," in 1960.
In 1972, Griffith started his own production company. Throughout the '70s Griffith continued his TV and film career, appearing in 1975's "Hearts of the West" with Jeff Bridges. He relaunched his 1960s sitcom, rebranding it as the "The New Andy Griffith Show," in 1972. It lasted one year.
Griffith made a big return to television in 1986, playing the title role in the TV legal drama "Matlock, which aired until 1995.
In the 1990s, Griffith also appeared in TV movies, including "Scattering Dad" and "A Holiday Romance."
He made a guest appearance on "Dawson's Creek" in 2001 and had a role in director Adrienne Shelley' 2007 film "Waitress," starring Kerri Russell.
Griffith never forgot about his music roots. He received a Grammy Award for best Southern, country or bluegrass gospel album for "I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns," in 1997.
The actor has been plagued by health issues through the years, suffering a heart attack in 2000, which led to quadruple heart-bypass surgery. In 2007, he underwent hip surgery after a fall.
Griffith recently lost a good friend, actor George Lindsey, who starred on "The Andy Griffith Show." Lindsey died in May at age 83.
At the time, Griffith released a statement saying, "Our last conversation was a few days ago ... I am happy to say that as we found ourselves in our 80s, we were not afraid to say, 'I love you.' That was the last thing George and I had to say to each other. 'I love you.'"
Griffith was married three times. His first marriage to Barbara Edwards ended in divorce in 1972. He was married to Solica Casuto from 1975-1981. Griffith wed his third wife, Cindi Knight, in 1983.
Griffith received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2005.