RALEIGH, N.C. — Andy Griffith says he wishes he looked like the statue that he unveiled Tuesday morning in Raleigh.
Griffith, the actor who played a genial Southern sheriff in the fictional town of Mayberry, waved from a replica sheriff's car Tuesday to hundreds of fans on hand to watch the unveiling of a memorial to "The Andy Griffith Show."
Griffith went immediately to a gazebo and helped pull down a blue cloak covering the 800-pound bronze statue of Griffith's Sheriff Andy Taylor walking to a fishing hole with his son, Opie.
"That beats anything. I kind of wish I looked like that now," Griffith said.
"The Andy Griffith Show" has been a television rerun staple for 40 years, never leaving the air since its original run in the 1960s.
"It's just a wholesome show, lots of genuine values in the show ... a good show for your kids to watch," said Ricky Carnes, who wore a sheriff's uniform similar to one worn by Taylor's deputy, Barney Fife. "If this show keeps going like it is it'll probably last another 50 years."
Some of the people at the park Tuesday kept the characters alive by wearing T-shirts with pictures of Taylor, Opie, and oddball mechanic Gomer, who inspired his own spinoff show.
In a deal Raleigh and the network signed in March, TV Land agreed to build and maintain the statue at no cost to the city.
Local officials say they hope it will help attract more tourists.
The unveiling drew people from as far away as Nebraska and Illinois, said Jim Clark, a freelance writer and founder of the show's fan club, who traveled from Nashville, Tenn., for the 30-minute ceremony.
"This particular day I think it's Andy Griffith himself who got us up here. It's just exciting to get a chance to get a glimpse of him. And, of course, the statue is just a neat thing," Clark said.
"That's going to be a real monument literally to Mayberry and what it stands for. And to see Andy here with it, that's a pretty good combination."
Griffith, who is from Mount Airy, now lives on the North Carolina coast in Manteo. Some in Mount Airy have grumbled that it is a better spot for the statue. The town is said to be a model for Mayberry.
A plaque accompanying the statue recalled the image established by the show. Griffith read from it as he closed his remarks.
"The Andy Griffith Show," Griffith read, "a simpler time, a sweeter place, a lesson, a laugh, a father and a son."