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Andy Griffith is one of the most beloved actors of all time. While the late actor had an expansive career in film and TV, he is the most known for his work in the TV shows The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock. Before he became an actor, Griffith actually had another career in mind.

Andy Griffith
Andy Griffith | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom

In 2005, President George W. Bush presented Griffith with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The actor was given the highest civilian honor for setting an example of excellence for his work as an actor.

The White House released an official statement about why Griffith was honored in 2005, writing:

“Andy Griffith is one of America’s best-known and most beloved entertainers. After his introduction to a national audience as a stand-up comedian on The Ed Sullivan Show in the 1950s, he went on to star in such celebrated television shows as The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock. As a legend of the stage, cinema, and television, Andy Griffith has built an enduring career and set a standard of excellence in entertainment. He is a man of humor, integrity, and compassion. The United States honors Andy Griffith for demonstrating the finest qualities of our country and for a lifetime of memorable performances that have brought joy to millions of Americans of all ages.”

The career he wanted before becoming an actor

Growing up, Griffith dreamed of being an opera singer and he had a special interest in music. While he was raised Baptist, he was taught to sing and play the trombone by a minister named Ed Mickey at Grace Moravian Church.

When Griffith started college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1944, he was a pre-divinity student with the goal of becoming a Moravian preacher.

He ended up changing his major to music, and he became involved with theatre at the university, including the famous Carolina Playmakers company. When he first graduated, Griffith taught music at a high school in North Carolina.


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Andy Griffith later joined the Moravian Church

While Griffith never went on to become a Moravian preacher, he did end up joining the congregation of Grace Moravian Church in 2009. Grace Moravian Church is where Griffith first learned to sing, and the church is in Mount Airy, N.C. where Griffith was born.

The Mount Airy News published an article when Griffith joined the church’s congregation, writing:

“Actor Andy Griffith first became associated with Grace Moravian Church while living in Mount Airy in the early 1940s, and now that relationship has come full circle with his officially joining its congregation.

It has been learned that Griffith, who will turn 83 on June 1, and his wife Cindy were welcomed into the local church last week by an affirmation of faith, which could lead to them traveling here to worship in the future.
The Rev. Tony Hayworth, pastor, made that announcement to the Grace Moravian congregation during its worship service last Sunday.”

Mayberry, the town in The Andy Griffith Show, is framed after Griffith’s birthplace.