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Andy Griffith made rural values universal

Andy Griffith

AP

Actor Andy Griffith in a 1983 photo.

The town of Mayberry, N.C., offered millions of television viewers a vision of America in its perfect state — even as real-life Southern towns roiled with the turbulence of the civil rights era. Andy Griffith, who played the part of the wise Sheriff Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show,” which ran from 1960 to 1968, was a warmly reassuring figure at a time when some folks in rural America may have needed a pushier role model.

But look a little closer and Griffith’s show, and its star, did more than attest to the goodness of small towns. Money and resources may not have been abundant in Mayberry. But a surfeit of friendship and trust more than compensated. Everyone from the mayor to the town drunk participated fully in the life of the town.

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Griffith’s Sheriff Taylor was a widowed father with infinite patience for his son, bumbling deputy, and live-in aunt. Griffith provided early proof that a single parent could still create the most loving and supportive of homes.

Sheriff Taylor was also the consummate practitioner of community policing decades before the term had been coined. He saw no need for a sidearm to protect the property or physical welfare of the townspeople. His power derived from human dignity. Griffith, who died on Tuesday at 86, embodied values that were as applicable to Boston or New York as Mayberry.

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