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Andy Griffith Celebrated At UNC's Wilson Library

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CHAPEL HILL — A new exhibit at UNC-Chapel Hill's Wilson Library features one of the school's most famous students -- not Michael Jordan, but rather, the beloved sheriff of Mayberry himself, Andy Griffith.

It is sure to appeal to trivia buffs.

"People visit the gallery They know Andy Griffith is a graduate of the university, and we often get questions about him and his career," says Laura Baxley, assistant keeper of the North Carolina collection gallery.

Baxley says these images answer many of the questions visitors may have about Griffith -- what he looked like as a boy growing up in Mt. Airy, the roles he played as a member of UNC's Playmakers Repertoire Company.

One shot shows him dressed as a Japanese man in an early performance. "It's a great shot because he's in full costume, and if someone hadn't told me it was Andy Griffith, I probably wouldn't have known that," Baxley says.

Mostly the photographs and artifacts tell the story of a career born on this campus, where Griffith was forced to re-map his career goals.

"In fact, he disliked his sociology class so much that he walked out and took an "F" in it, and that of course pretty much ended his dreams of becoming a Moravian minister," Baxley says.

Griffith took to the stage as an actor and comic. One routine became a famous comedy record: "What It Was, Was Football."

The record inspired a character which inspired a play, a movie, even a comic book. From stage, to film and then to TV, Griffith's career inspired coloring books, trivia games even a restaurant chain.

"I think one thing that will stand out most is a can of Andy Griffith navy beans," Baxley says.

And people, especially North Carolinians, bought the beans and watched the shows, because Andy was and still is, one of us.

"He never forgot the fact that he was from North Carolina. He was never afraid to announce that fact and even incorporated it into a lot of his characters," Baxley says.

Organizers hope Andy himself will come take a look at what's in the exhibit. The exhibit is free and open to the public. It runs through Aug. 22.