The Andy Griffith Show was full of memorable character actors. Deputy Barney Fife, Gomer and Goober Pyle, Otis Campbell, and other townsfolk in Mayberry were just as memorable as their leading man, Sheriff Andy Taylor and his son Opie. One of those beloved friends of Andy who appeared numerous times throughout the show was the sweet but slightly odd neighborhood barber Floyd Lawson, who just couldn't seem to trim Andy's sideburns evenly. Actor Howard McNear brought the character to life, replacing the initial actor who had played Floyd in his first appearance. McNear was also a film actor, showing up in numerous Elvis Presley films like Fun in Acapulco, Blue Hawaii, and Follow That Dream, but he will always be best remembered for being the sweet and slow barber in the town of Mayberry.
Howard Terbell McNear was born in Los Angeles, California in 1905. After attending the Oatman School of Theater, he joined a theater in San Diego. He got a taste for entertaining the masses when he played operator Clint Barlow in the popular radio program Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police. After serving in World War II in the United States Army Air Corps, he actually originated the character of Doc Charles Adams on the CBS radio's Gunsmoke program. Though actor Milburn Stone stepped in to play Doc on the television show, McNear appeared on several Gunsmoke episodes.
McNear made his first appearance as a TV barber on the sitcom Leave It to Beaver playing "Andy the barber." He went on to have quite a lengthy filmography appearing on countless more TV shows including I Love Lucy, The Real McCoys, The Jack Benny Program, The Donna Reed Show, Laramie, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, The Twilight Zone, Peter Gunn, Dragnet, and Richard Diamond Private Detective. Outside of his TV career, McNear also acted in countless films -- Anatomy of a Murder, Bell, Book and Candle, Kiss Me, Stupid, Heller in Pink Tights, Bachelor Flat, Escape from Fort Bravo, Drums Across the River, The Errand Boy, The Long, Long Trailer, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Irma la Douce, and Good Day for a Hanging.
Initially, actor Walter Baldwin introduced Floyd the barber in episode 12 of The Andy Griffith Show, "Stranger in Town." He originated the running gag that the shave he gives Andy Taylor is always off. But McNear stepped in and played the chatty barber from then on. During the third season of the show, McNear suffered a stroke that seriously affected the left side of his body. He ended up taking time off to recover but Andy Griffith begged him to come back. The show made special arrangements for McNear's condition, filming scenes on the bench outside instead of in the barbershop since he had trouble standing.
McNear quit Andy Griffith in 1967 as he was having trouble remembering his lines and it was getting increasingly more difficult for him. His final film performance had been the prior year in The Fortune Cookie, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. In 1969, McNear passed away at the San Fernando Valley Veterans Hospital in California following a stroke and complications from pneumonia. Parley Baer, who had also appeared on the radio show Gunsmoke as well as Andy Griffith delivered his eulogy. He was survived by his wife Helen, whom he had married in 1926, and their one child.