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'There's Only One Andy Griffith,' Bush Says In Ceremony

Posted November 10, 2005

— North Carolina native and resident Andy Griffith was among 14 people who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George Bush.

This year's recipients of the medal, the government's highest civilian honor, were divided about equally between sports and entertainment celebrities and prominent figures from the more sober worlds of economics, science, letters and policy.

Bush spoke highly of Griffith during the ceremony on Wednesday.

"TV shows come and go, but there's only one Andy Griffith," Bush said. "We thank him for being such a friendly and beloved presence in our American life."

Bush spoke about the character that Griffith bought to the role of Sheriff Andy Taylor for eight years.

" The enduring appeal of the show has always depended -- and still does -- on the simplicity and sweetness and rectitude of the man behind the badge," Bush said.

Griffith currently lives in Manteo and is best known for his role on The Andy Griffith Show. After his introduction to a national audience as a stand-up comedian on The Ed Sullivan Show in the 1950s, Griffith went on to star in such celebrated television shows as The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock.

Here are Bush's complete remarks about Griffith:

"Here at the White House, we get an interesting mix of visitors. Already today I've met with the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and the Dalai Lama -- and the Sheriff of Mayberry. Andy Griffith first came to the people's attention with his gift for storytelling -- and his own life is a mighty fine story by itself. He started out as a high school teacher, and in his amazing career he has gained fame as an actor, and received a Grammy Award for his singing. He will always be remembered for the 'Andy Griffith Show' and 'Matlock.' Yet, he has also given powerful dramatic performances in such movies as 'A Face in the Crowd.' "

Looking back on his Mayberry days, Andy explained the timeless appeal of the show. He said 'it was about love. Barney would set himself up for a fall, and Andy would be there to catch him.' The enduring appeal of the show has always depended -- and still does -- on the simplicity and sweetness and rectitude of the man behind the badge. TV shows come and go, but there's only one Andy Griffith. And we thank him for being such a friendly and beloved presence in our American life."

Other recipients were:

-- Louisville, Ky., native Muhammad Ali. The three-time heavyweight boxing champion successfully defended the title 19 times and was a gold medalist at the 1960 Olympic Games.

-- Carol Burnett. The actress and comedian debuted on Broadway in 1959 and starred for more than a decade on "The Carol Burnett Show."

-- Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn. They designed the software code used to transmit data over the Internet.

-- Robert Conquest. The historian is known for his work on Soviet history, politics, and foreign policy. More than 35 years after its publication, his book, "The Great Terror: Stalin's Purge of the Thirties," remains one of the most influential studies of Soviet history.

-- Aretha Franklin. The singer has nearly two dozen No. 1 singles and has won numerous awards. Franklin was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.

-- Alan Greenspan. He has been chairman of the Federal Reserve for the past 18 years.

-- Paul Harvey. The radio personality's broadcasts started airing nationally in 1951.

-- Sonny Montgomery. A veterans' supporter during his 30 years as a member of the House of Representatives. The Montgomery GI Bill helped make education affordable for millions of veterans.

-- Gen. Richard Myers. He recently retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

-- Jack Nicklaus. The golfer won 18 major tournaments as a professional and more than 70 PGA Tour events.

-- Frank Robinson. The current manager of the Washington Nationals, Robinson won most valuable player awards in both the American and National leagues. He broke the color barrier for managers, becoming the first black manager in Major League Baseball in 1975.

-- Paul Rusesabagina. The hotelier's life was the subject of the movie "Hotel Rwanda," which depicted his courage and compassion in sheltering people at the hotel he managed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

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