Mayberry’s George “Goober” Lindsey dead at 83

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George "Goober" Lindsey

George “Goober” Lindsey

Actor and come­dian George “Goober” Lind­sey, famous for his slow-witted char­ac­ter on The Andy Grif­fith Show, May­berry R.F.D. and Hee Haw, died at 12:05 a.m. Sun­day after a brief ill­ness. He was 83.

Appear­ing often in Dis­ney movies, Lind­sey voiced Lafayette in The Aris­to­cats (1970), Trig­ger in Robin Hood (1973), and the Rab­bit in The Res­cuers(1977). In addi­tion, he was a com­edy sup­port­ing actor in live-action Dis­ney fea­ture films.

He also voiced the Wolf in the half-hour Cana­dian TV-movie The New Mis­ad­ven­tures Of Ich­a­bod Crane (1979).

Last year, he por­trayed the King and other char­ac­ters in the anime films Starzinger, Starzinger II and Starzinger III.

George Lind­sey was my friend. I had great respect for his tal­ent and his human spirit,” Andy Grif­fith said in a statement.

In recent years, we spoke often by tele­phone. Our last con­ver­sa­tion was a few days ago. We would talk about our health, how much we missed our friends who passed before us and usu­ally about some­thing funny.

I am happy to say that as we found our­selves in our eight­ies, 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.’

George often told me his fond­est mem­o­ries of his life in show busi­ness were the years he spent work­ing on The Andy Grif­fith Show and May­berry R.F.D. They were for me, too.”

He was born George Smith Lind­sey in Fair­field, Alabama on Decem­ber 17, 1928, and grew up poor in the small town of Jasper, Alabama. He spent most of his child­hood at his grand­par­ents’ home and fre­quented the local movie the­ater, where he was enthralled by movie cow­boys such as Hopa­long Cas­sidy and Bob Steele.

Lind­sey dis­played a pen­chant for enter­tain­ing at an early age and would do any­thing for laughs. He was voted “fun­ni­est boy” through­out his high school years. At age 14, he saw a pro­duc­tion of Okla­homa! in Birm­ing­ham and knew then that he wanted to be an actor.

He also became inter­ested in foot­ball, and the sport gave him an oppor­tu­nity to advance his edu­ca­tion. After brief stays at Walker Junior Col­lege in Jasper and Kem­per Mil­i­tary School in Boonville, Mis­souri, he later won a foot­ball schol­ar­ship to Flo­rence State Teach­ers Col­lege (now the Uni­ver­sity of North Alabama). Lind­sey was pop­u­lar in col­lege, and in addi­tion to quar­ter­back­ing the Lions foot­ball team, he also was active in the­ater (where he finally got the chance to per­form in Okla­homa!), and var­i­ous other clubs and orga­ni­za­tions. His major was bio­log­i­cal sci­ence and phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion, and he grad­u­ated in 1952.

Fol­low­ing his grad­u­a­tion, Lind­sey joined the Air Force and was based in Orlando, Florida. There, he worked as a recre­ations direc­tor and spent his spare time pro­duc­ing enter­tain­ment shows, doing stand-up com­edy, and act­ing in a local the­ater group.

Lind­sey returned to Jasper and was hired as a coach/history teacher at Hazel Green High School near Huntsville, Alabama. After a year of teach­ing, he decided to move to New York, where he could study with Helen Hayes at the Amer­i­can The­ater Wing.

Times were tough, but he was doing some­thing that he really loved. He stud­ied voice and dic­tion, clas­sics, and body move­ment and bal­let. He com­pleted the pro­gram and got the lead role in the class grad­u­a­tion play.

Fol­low­ing grad­u­a­tion, Lind­sey hit the streets and began look­ing for work. He did bit parts in local pro­duc­tions and some work as a stand-up com­edy in clubs and din­ner the­aters. His big break came a few months later when he was picked by direc­tor Joshua Logan for a major role in the play All Amer­i­can. The play ran for three months and after the close, he received another off-Broadway role in a play called Won­der­ful Town.

Lind­sey dreamed of work­ing in Hol­ly­wood. In 1962, when Won­der­ful Town ended its run in San Fran­cisco, he headed for Los Ange­les. He signed with the William Mor­ris Agency and began to get roles on such TV shows as The Rifle­man, Twi­light Zone and The Alfred Hitch­cock Hour. He also got a part in the fea­ture film Ensign Pul­ver.

His most famous role, how­ever, was that of Goober in the pop­u­lar TV series The Andy Grif­fith Show. He had ini­tially read for the role of Gomer Pyle, but fel­low Alabamian Jim Nabors was even­tu­ally cho­sen for that part. When Nabors was given his own show, the pro­duc­ers approached Lind­sey about play­ing Goober, Gomer’s cousin. Thus began a fruit­ful five years on one of the most pop­u­lar run­ning series ever on tele­vi­sion. Fol­low­ing the can­cel­la­tion of The Andy Grif­fith Show, most of the major actors reprised their roles in May­berry R.F.D., a spin-off of the series.

Lind­sey expanded his tal­ents fol­low­ing May­berry R.F.D. by record­ing a com­edy album in Nashville called Goober Sings. It was in Nashville that he was approached to con­tinue the char­ac­ter of Goober in the pop­u­lar vari­ety show Hee Haw. It would prove to be a suc­cess­ful ven­ture for Lind­sey, who would work with Hee Haw for the next 20 years. He also appeared in numer­ous guest roles and Dis­ney movies.

Lind­sey was always inter­ested in help­ing oth­ers, and his human­i­tar­ian achieve­ments over the years were notable. He raised over $1 mil­lion for the Spe­cial Olympics.

For 17 years, he con­ducted the George Lind­sey Celebrity Golf Tour­na­ment in Mont­gomery, Alabama, which raised money for men­tally retarded chil­dren. He also helped raise funds for an aquatic cen­ter for the Alabama State Hos­pi­tal for the Men­tally Retarded. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

In 1992, UNA pre­sented Lind­sey with a hon­orary doc­tor of humane let­ters degree.

In 1998, he helped estab­lish the George Lindsey/University of North Alabama Tele­vi­sion and Film Fes­ti­val. It is an annual event that pro­vides young film­mak­ers the oppor­tu­nity to show their work and learn more about the film­mak­ing indus­try. Through his con­tacts in the enter­tain­ment indus­try, he was able to bring in as fea­tured artists such lumi­nar­ies as Ernest Borg­nine and Tom Cherones.

Lind­sey shared the 2004 TV Land Leg­end Award with other cast and crew mem­bers of The Andy Grif­fith Show.

His mar­riage to Joy­anne Her­bert in 1955 ended in divorce in 1991.

He is sur­vived by son George Lind­sey, Jr. of Wood­land Hills, Cal­i­for­nia; daugh­ter Cam­den Jo Lind­sey Gard­ner and grand­sons Car­son Cole Gard­ner and Andrew Liam Gard­ner of Valen­cia, Cal­i­for­nia; cousin Rebecca Weber of Gads­den, Alabama; and long­time com­pan­ion of many years Anne Wil­son of Nashville.

George Lind­sey will be buried in Jasper, Alabama, sources told WSMV-TV 4 Nashville. Funeral arrange­ments are being han­dled by Mar­shall Don­nelly Combs Funeral Home of Nashville.

In lieu of flow­ers, dona­tions in Lindsey’s mem­ory may be made to Spe­cial Olympics Alabama, 880 South Court Street, Mont­gomery, AL 36104; UNA Foun­da­tion, with a des­ig­na­tion to the George Lind­sey Film and Dig­i­tal Media Schol­ar­ship, UNA Box 5113, Flo­rence, AL 35632–0001; or another char­ity of the donor’s choice.

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