In July, actor Andy Griffith, best known as Andy Taylor of the Andy Griffth Show and as attorney Ben Matlock, passed away at age 86. Many have speculated that Mayberry is, in actuality Mt. Airy, N.C., home of Grace Moravian Church. But the connection goes much deeper.
“On a beautiful Spring day in May 2009, we were welcomed with generosity and kindness into the Manteo home of Mr. and Mrs. Andy Griffith,” says the Rev. Anthony Hayworth, pastor at Grace Moravian. “Andy, a member of Grace Moravian during his teenage years, had expressed a desire to reconnect with the Moravian church. Through the liturgies for the Reaffirmation of Faith and Holy Communion, Cindi and Andy became members of the Grace Moravian Congregation.
The congregation was represented by Emmett Forrest (Andy’s life-long friend) and by my wife and me. With a rhythm only God can create, something within us moved: a deep longing for Jesus in concert with our reaching out to restore what had been lost. This longing brought us into a moment of true worship.
“The spirit of Moravian worship and devotion was common in their home, as Andy began each day reading the Daily Text and his Bible,” continued Tony. “ On that particular day, Christ was in our midst, transforming the various emotions we experienced through the joy of prayers, sacrament and hymns.
“Emmett remembers it was ‘quite an experience’ and ‘really special.’ It was truly a re-membering. Old friends saying hello, new friends making acquaintances; Christian worship with the gift of Christ’s loving spirit; a moment of Moravian worship ending with the familiar chords of ‘Sing Hallelujah, Praise the Lord’ played on an old pump organ. We honored the old and celebrated the hope of the new. Now our dear friend knows those “realms of endless light.” To which we say, ‘Praise ye the Lord! Amen.’”
Over the years, Andy Griffth’s Moravian connection has been written about and shared by members of the church. In this issue of The Moravian, we excerpt two of those—one written by the Rt. Rev. Edward Mickey in 1968, another written by the Revs. John D. Rights and Carol Foltz in 1983. Enjoy!
The Andy Griffth I Know by Edward T. Mickey Jr.
(reprinted from the Feb. 1968 issue of the Wachovia Moravian)
That just about describes the sound effects of the beginning of an experience which was to have long-lasting and happy results, the pleasures of which continued for twenty-five years, to this day.
This was how Andy Griffith arrived at the back door of Grace Moravian Church in Mount Airy, North Carolina on a Wednesday afternoon in 1942. It records also how I almost missed knowing him.
Once a week I spent the afternoon teaching “horn” to a dozen or more of the young people in the congregation of Grace Church so that we could have a church band to play chorales for special services. On this particular afternoon the group had not practiced and was not much interested. It was one of those low times when I was saying to myself, “You nut! Why did you ever start this business anyway?” The session was over, and I had gone down to the outside basement steps to sit down and feel sorry for myself.
When I looked up to see the cause of this flurry, sitting astride his bicycle was a rawboned boy of sixteen with curly, blond hair.
“You the preacher here?” he asked.
I answered that I was.
“You teach horn?”
I said that I did, inwardly groaning, “O Lord, here’s another one!” And from then on, still drowned in my own self pity, I was anxious to get rid of him. The conversation continued, and, as usual, I talked too much.
“I teach the young folks here at the church.”
“You teach me? I’ll pay you.”
“I can’t take pay for this. I have a job, and this is part of my work for the church,” And I should not have added: “Why do you want to learn to play a horn?”
“So I can lead a swing-band.”
Then I really wondered what I had gotten into! “What kind of horn do you want to learn to play?”
Now was my chance: “I don’t know anything about trombone,” I said. But again I talked too much. “All I could do would be to go through an instruction book with you.”
“I got an instruction book.”
“You’ll have to have a horn.” (I was glad I had not seen one.)
“I got a horn.”
“Where did you get it?”
I was resigned to my fate. He had an answer at every turn and I could not be any more rude than I had been. “Well, come again next Wednesday and bring your horn. We’ll see what we can do.” I was saying to myself that he would not ride two miles across town for long to do this, and I hoped he would not.
Next Wednesday there was Andy, bicycle and trombone, all three combined with enthusiasm for life in quantity enough for half-a-dozen boys. I still was not convinced. I was not going to buy several dollars’ worth of instruction books just to have him quit, for I had no more trombones. I “swiped” his instruction book that week, and sent him home with a scale written on a piece of paper so I could study the book.
On the following Wednesday he brought the scale back, note perfect. I gave him his instruction book and assigned a lesson. He brought it back the next week, note perfect. The same thing happened a third week. Then, when I assigned another lesson, he said, “Is that all?”
“Do you want more?”
“I can do more.”
So I gave him two lessons which he promptly brought back note perfect.
Now I was interested. “Andy, when do you get all the time for this practice?” Evidently it was requiring hours for this kind of progress.
“Well, I tell you: I’ve got my school work; and I’ve got my studying; And I’ve got my paper route; and I’ve got my church work.” (He and his family were active members in a church near their home, and I had insisted that he must continue this.) “And that doesn’t leave me much time, so I’ve been getting up at about 5 o’clock in the morning to practice!”
My heart went out to the neighbors until I realized that the neighbors also got up about 5 a.m. to go to work.
I soon put Andy in the band which rehearsed each Monday night. There he promptly took the intermission time, and any other time when he thought I was not watching, to learn the fingering and positions of most of the other instruments, still doing a top job with his own.
Unwittingly, I had received much more than just Andy Griffith and his trombone; I had a bonus—his zest for life and for what he was doing caught on with the rest. The whole group, and yes, the director also, came out of the doldrums which had enveloped it.
But his enthusiasm brought its problems, or so I thought. I had insisted that Andy should put his work in his own church first. When there was a conflict, he should stay there. Keeping him there was another matter. He was continually popping up at times when I knew he should be in his own church, but when I said anything:
“I asked Mom and Daddy and the preacher and they said it was O.K.”
He would not sing in the choir, that was too sissy—at least for the first year. After that he could not sing enough. He did not like “long-haired” music until he was sick with the flu for a week during the winter and began to listen to symphonies over the radio. Today, he and his family appreciate all kinds of music.
Andy’s enthusiasm was contagious
And so it went. Everyone came to know and to like this enthusiastic boy whose standards of speech, action and thought were above reproach, and who had the knack for passing his own wholesomeness on to others.
Eventually came the parting of our ways. Andy Griffith went to Chapel Hill to the University of North Carolina to study: first for the ministry and later for teaching, neither of which calling, I believe, was rightly to be his.
Because it has always been my policy to cut the ties which would bind me when going from one congregation to another, I did this when leaving Mount Airy in 1944. For some years, until the time of his “Football Record,” I followed Andy in interest, but with little personal contact. We took up a closer relationship again when he asked the Mount Airy chamber of Commerce to invite my wife and me to “Andy Griffith Day” and the premiere of his first picture.
Through the years, Andy’s generosity in referring to the Moravian Church and to me as having been a cherished part of his life, has been a source of much enjoyment and appreciation on the part of many of us who have known him. We should not take too much credit for this; it was Andy’s doing. Had he not been what he was, and is, in basic character and goodness, he would have been just another of the many in his profession who have lost their ideals and sense of values. He lives under pressures which the rest of us would find intolerable, and does so without sacrificing his own integrity and Christian character.
The Rev. Edward T. Mickey, Jr., was pastor of Raleigh Moravian Church when this article first appeared in The Moravian.
An Interview with Andy Griffith by Carol Foltz and John Rights
(Originally published in “Moravian Mainline,” March-April 1982. Used with permission)
To hear the name of Andy Griffith brings to mind visual images of Mayberry, Deputy Barney Fife and the guitar-pickin’ sheriff of The Andy Griffith Show, but to those who knew Andy Griffith before his tremendous success as an entertainer, his name might just as easily be associated with Mt. Airy, Bishop Ed Mickey and a trombone-blowin’ youth at Grace Moravian Church. Carol Foltz and I had the privilege of speaking with Andy Griffith by way of a phone call to his residence in Southern California. In our curiosity to find out about his background and insights into his profession, we found Mr. Griffith very open, most cordial and an actor concerned with the direction television programming seems to be taking. The following excerpts are taken from this interview.
What has been your past association with the Moravian Church?
“This is something that is very important to me. In Mt. Airy, when I grew up, there was no music program in the school system. They had one music teacher, but it didn’t amount to anything. There was no instrumental program or anything like that. I found myself very interested in music. …At that time a boy who was not athletic, was not particularly bright or a good student and wasn’t from a well-to-do family, kinda played second fiddle, if you know what I mean. I never felt I was very much of a full person. I felt like I was second class all the time. Well, when I met Ed Mickey and the Moravian Church and through them met music…now understand that when I was eight years old I was baptized into the Baptist Church, and had been going to that church regularly. Our family always had a religious background, but Ed Mickey and that church added another dimension to my life. Then he started teaching me to sing and all of a sudden I amounted to something.”
How old were you when all this happened?
“I lied, though Christians can’t lie. I lied about my age when I was 14 and said I was 15 in order to get a job, and I had my trombone so I must’ve met Ed Mickey when I was 15. He left Mt. Airy my last year of high school. I went to Chapel Hill (the University of North Carolina). I went to be a minister under Bishop Pfohl, and not to say anything wrong against Bishop Pfohl, but Bishop got mad at me because I was majoring in Sociology and, just to be honest with you, I hated it. I hated every second of it. I was crazy over the music department and I was ill-prepared for it because I started late, but Bishop didn’t want me to major in Music and still stay in the ministry, and he was right, … so I suffered under that a long time. So finally I went home and stopped by to see Ed Mickey to tell him and he said, ‘Well, I had a feeling that was coming.’ It’s funny the transitions that your life goes through and you don’t even know it’s going to. The upshot is how important alternatives are for young people, and the more the merrier! In my case, the factor that music was an alternative gave me direction in my life I didn’t have. That’s why I feel in my case and, many peoples’ case that music is important. The Moravian Church wouldn’t be quite the same Moravian Church without music.”
What does it take to be a successful actor, musician or entertainer?
“This is important. Moss Hart wrote a book called Act One, and in his fascinating book he said to be successful in any business, whether it is show business or any business, you have to have talent at what you’re doing. You have to have the ability to work hard. And he also said being at the right place at the right time is also important. But, he said perhaps the most important quality a person can have is the ability to know what to do when an opportunity presents itself.
“Another thing you must have to be successful, and more than that happy, in any line of work goes by a lot of different names: thickskin, resilience and many other things. In any artistic endeavors such as singing, acting, painting and writing, you tend to expose your inner feeling, you tend to say to someone, ‘I love you’ who may not love you back or care if you love them. What you either have to have, or develop is the ability to be rejected, and that may not sound like it would be hard to do, but I’m going to tell you that it is very hard to do!”
In his book, The Andy Griffith Show, Richard Kelly writes, “There are few television programs today that embody the high moral and artistic standards of the Griffith Show. Lust, anger, betrayal, greed, and violence seem to be the order of the day. Soaps such as All My Children, The Young and the Restless and As the World Turns and popular evening melodramas such as Dallas all show people to be fundamentally immoral and the family to be a focus of strife and anxiety…Like the solid old westerns that create a dream vision of the American past, with its clear moral code, the Griffith Show captures a romantic myth that continues to entice and satisfy our yearnings for a simpler world, one filled with hope, purpose, respect, love, laughter, understanding and a sense of belonging and permanence.”
Such are the fruits born in dynamic Christian living. We thank you Andy Griffith for your constructive contribution to television and the field of entertainment; for countless amusing half-hours of afterschool relaxation and studybreaks spent on the streets of Mayberry; and for the gracious sharing of yourself with the youth of the Southern Province.
The Rev. John D. Rights is now pastor of Konnoak Hills Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.; The Rev. Carol Foltz serves at Friedland Moravian Church in Winston-Salem.