The character actor played Mayberry's genial auto mechanic, the cousin of naive gas station attendant Gomer Pyle. He also was a regular on 'Hee Haw.'
By Dennis McLellan
Los Angeles Times
May 7, 2012
George Lindsey, the Southern-born character actor who played dim hayseed Goober
Pyle, the genial gas station auto mechanic on "The
Andy Griffith Show" and "Mayberry R.F.D.," died early Sunday morning. He was
Lindsey, who later was a regular on the long-running country music
comedy show "Hee Haw," died at a healthcare center in Nashville after a brief
illness, said his manager and booking agent, Carrie Moore-Reed.
Lindsey was my friend," Andy Griffith
said in a statement. "I had great respect for his talent and his human
Noting that he had his last conversation with Lindsey a few days
ago, Griffith said: "I am happy to say that as we found ourselves in our 80s, we
were not afraid to say, 'I love you.' That was the last thing George and I had
to say to each other. 'I love you.' "
"The Andy Griffith Show," the
classic 1960s situation comedy starring Griffith as the kindly sheriff of
Mayberry, N.C., was in its fourth season in 1964 when Lindsey first appeared as
the cousin of naive gas station attendant Gomer Pyle, played by Jim
Lindsey's character became more prominent after Nabors left
the show to star in the spin-off series "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." in
As Goober, Lindsey wore a brown felt beanie with turned-up
scalloped edges and had a tire gauge, pens and pencils stuffed into the pocket
of his work shirt and a rag hanging out of the back pocket of his high-wasted
"I had a lot of trouble with that part," he said in a 2005
interview with Alabama's Montgomery Advertiser newspaper. "I'd been playing a
lot of heavy character roles. I'd done them on 'Alfred
Hitchcock,' and 'Twilight Zone' and some others, and at first I found myself
just doing an impersonation of Jim Nabors doing Gomer. I finally said, 'Look,
tell me about this guy and who he is.' "
Lindsey often recalled that
Griffith told him, "Goober's the kind of guy that would go into a restaurant and
say, 'This is great salt.' "
"Andy Griffith turned out to be the greatest
teacher I've ever had," Lindsey, an Alabama native, told The Times in 1968. "He
kept tellin' me to play myself, to let it happen to me, instead of trying to be
Over the years, fans of the show often would ask Lindsey to
repeat a line he said during his first appearance on the series: a scene in
Sheriff Andy Taylor's office in which Gomer asks Goober to do his "take-off
on Cary Grant" for Andy.
The bashful Goober quickly gives in and
delivers a humorously terrible: "Judy, Judy, Judy, Judy, Judy."
you just swear Cary Grant was right here in this room?" an impressed Gomer
"Yeah, that was good, Goober," says Andy.
One of Lindsey's
favorite episodes was the one in which, as a practical joke, young Ron Howard's
Opie and a friend hide a
miniature walkie-talkie under the collar of the stray dog Goober has
"Goober thought he had a talking dog," Lindsey said in a 1985
Associated Press interview. "It revealed Goober's childlike qualities; it made
you laugh and cry."
Lindsey believed "The Andy Griffith Show," which
Knotts five Emmy
Awards as Deputy Barney Fife, was popular because "it was honest and
"At that time, we were the best acting ensemble on TV," he said.
"The scripts were terrific."
After Griffith left the high-rated CBS
series in 1968, Lindsey continued to play Goober on the sequel series, "Mayberry
R.F.D.," starring Ken Berry. It was
canceled in 1971.
An only child in a poor family, he was born in
Fairfield, Ala., on Dec. 17, 1928, and grew up in Jasper, Ala. He majored in
biological science and physical education at what is now the University of North
After graduating in 1952, he spent four years in the Air Force
and another year as a history teacher and head basketball coach at Hazel
Green High School in Alabama before moving to New York City, where he studied
acting on the GI Bill at the American Theatre Wing.
One of his first jobs
on TV was as one of the liars on the quiz panel show "To Tell the Truth." He did
a stand-up comedy act to make ends meet and later played opposite Ray Bolger in the
1962 Broadway musical comedy "All American."
After landing in Hollywood
that same year, Lindsey actually auditioned for the role of Gomer Pyle — and, he
later said, was told he had the part — before it went to Nabors, a fellow
Lindsey's later credits included providing voices for
characters in the Disney animated features "The Aristocats," "The
Rescuers" and "Robin Hood." He also had a
long run on the syndicated "Hee Haw."
"I really don't do Goober on 'Hee
Haw.' I do George Lindsey," he told the Associated Press in 1982. "Maybe I don't
know where George Lindsey stops and Goober begins. If you're in a series, as I
was for seven and a half years, you draw on every personal experience for that
Although he once resented being typecast as Goober, Lindsey
learned to embrace the role that brought him fame and provided the title for the
1995 book "Goober in a Nutshell," which he wrote with Ken Beck and Jim
As Lindsey said in the 1985 AP interview, "Goober is Everyman.
Everyone finds something to like about ol' Goober."
Lindsey, who was
divorced, is survived by his son, George Lindsey Jr.; his daughter, Camden Jo
Lindsey Gardner; two grandsons; and his longtime companion, Anne