From the Raleigh News & Observer:
Andy Griffith’s broad shoulders carried a heavy load for more than 50 years. In 1960, he created an iconic fictional character so noble that today, church groups still seek moral guidance in Sheriff Andy Taylor’s every televised word, deed and gesture.
And over the years, when Griffith insisted that Mayberry, the perfect little town he invented, was absolutely not based on his hometown of Mount Airy, N.C., fans nodded, winked, said “Sure, Andy, whatever you say,” and went right on believing what they wanted to believe.
What they wanted to believe was that around the next bend or over the next hill was a place like Mayberry and a man as fair, wise and decent as Sheriff Andy.
Andy Griffith never won an Oscar, an Emmy or a Tony for his acting. But then, around here we never thought of him as an actor. He was just our friend and neighbor, and we were so proud of him we couldn’t hardly stand it.
And if the rest of the world happened to tune in to his popular shows and just happened to assume folks in North Carolina were anywhere near as good-hearted as Andy Taylor, Ben Matlock or the good people of Mayberry, well, that was OK with us, too.