People we love: Don Knotts

Jesse Donald “Don” Knotts, July 21, 1924 – February 24, 2006

Born on this day in 1924.

We all knew him best as the loveable Barney Fife on the 1960s sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. He earned five Emmy Awards for his performances. He later played Ralph Furley, the landlord on Three’s Company.

He was ranked number 27 on TV Guide’s 1996 “50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time” list.

Born in Morgantown, West Virginia, Knotts served in the U.S. Army where he spent most of his time entertaining the troops with a ventriloquist dummy named Danny “Hooch” Matador. Knotts said that he got so tired of the act he tossed the dummy overboard in the South Pacific.

Knotts had his first television role in 1953 on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. His first role with Andy Griffith was in No Time for Sergeants. That began a personal friendship between Griffith and Knotts that would last for decades.

In 1960, Knott’s assumed the role that would make him a television legend. He became forever Barney Fife. He played the role for five years but began looking for other work when he thought the show was ending. By the time it was announced the show would continue, Barney had left and gone on to “work for” the Raleigh, North Carolina police force.

Knott’s appeared in several films following The Andy Griffith Show, including The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964), The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1996) and The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968).

Over the years he would return several times to reprise his role as Barney Fife. His final role was in Air Buddies, the sequel to Air Bud. He was the voice of the sheriff’s deputy dog, Sniffer.

Knotts died on February 24, 2006 at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He had been undergoing treatments for lung cancer. He was 81.

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