Andy Griffith will go down in history as one of America's most beloved television actors. Known as friendly Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor on the classic TV show, The Andy Griffith Show, and later as attorney Ben Matlock on Matlock, Andy Griffith acted his way into the hearts of many Americans throughout his more than 45-year career. Beyond his TV career, Griffith was also a talented singer and received a Grammy Award for his 1996 gospel album, I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns. He was also a friend of country singer Brad Paisley and appeared in his music video for "Waitin' On A Woman." Griffith passed away in 2012, but he accomplished a great deal in his life and was even awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the highest civilian honors in the United States.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is given to individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." Griffith was given the award in 2005 by former President George W. Bush. He traveled to Washington D.C. to accept the award, where President Bush personally placed the medal around his neck in the East Room of the White House. When he awarded Griffith, the President gave credit to the entertainer's "gift of storytelling," and said, "his own life is a might fine story by itself."
"TV shows come and go, but there's only one Andy Griffith," said President Bush, according to CBS News. "And we thank him for being such a friendly and beloved presence in our American life."
Bush continued talking about the show, saying, "It was about love. Barney would set himself up for a fall, and Andy would be there to catch him."
Griffith was one of 14 recipients that received the award in 2005. Other recipients included boxer Muhammad Ali, actress Carol Burnett, singer Aretha Franklin, Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan, broadcaster Paul Harvey and U.S. Air Force general Richard B. Myers.
Andy Griffith was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina on June 1, 1936. Before gaining nationwide fame, he worked as a high school teacher, teaching music and drama. Griffith famously worked alongside Don Knotts, who played lovable deputy Barney Fife, and Ron Howard, who played Sheriff Taylor's son Opie, on The Andy Griffith Show. Although Griffith himself never ran for office, he endorsed various political candidates throughout his lifetime, including President Barack Obama in 2008.