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News Release

For immediate use

Sept. 9, 2005 -- No. 402

Andy Griffith to donate personal collection
to UNC’s Southern Historical Collection

CHAPEL HILL – Television and film star Andy Griffith, one of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s most famous alumni, plans to donate his personal collection chronicling his successful career to the university’s Southern Historical Collection.

Griffith and university officials today (Sept. 9) announced the donation, which will create a new Andy Griffith Collection, at a news conference on the UNC campus.

"I am proud of my connections to Carolina and pleased to know that some results from a lifetime of work on television, film, stage and recordings will have a permanent home in Chapel Hill," Griffith said. "The Southern Historical Collection is an impressive repository of great value to the people of North Carolina, our Southern region and beyond, and I am glad to help expand and enhance such an important resource."

Griffith, one of television’s most personable and enduring star performers, is in Chapel Hill to help dedicate the newly renovated Memorial Hall, in which he gave his first theatrical performance as a UNC undergraduate.

Griffith was among the principals at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday and will participate in other celebratory events, including a grand opening gala with singer Tony Bennett, this weekend. Griffith was honorary chair of the Memorial Hall Transformation Steering Committee, which helped raise more than $5 million for the public-private partnership that made the renovation possible.

UNC’s Southern Historical Collection, likely the world’s largest collection of manuscript and related material documenting the American South, celebrated its 75th anniversary this year. The collection, located in Wilson Library, contains more than 15 million items in 4,900 collections with sizes as diverse as a single item and half a million. Materials date primarily from the mid-18th century to now. Included are long runs of intimate family correspondence, sets of 50-volume diaries, 80,000 photographs, 3,500 oral history interviews, general store account books, scrapbooks, office files, videotapes and other items.

In 1930, UNC officially established the Southern Historical Collection, with a founding endowment gift from Sarah Graham Kenan. Throughout its history, items have been acquired largely as generous gifts from individuals like Griffith, as well as families and organizations. The collection documents the lives and careers of thousands of people, including UNC alumni or students U.S. Sen. Sam J. Ervin; journalist Charles Kuralt; novelist Walker Percy; historian and novelist Shelby Foote; novelist Gail Godwin; and N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Susie Sharp.

The Griffith collection will include manuscripts, recordings, television and film footage and other memorabilia documenting a 55-year career. Currently, those materials are scattered in locations including Griffith’s home in California.

"Andy Griffith is a North Carolina treasure and a national folk hero. This generous donation will ensure that his legacy is forever intertwined with a university that is proud of his accomplishments and grateful for all that he has given back," said Chancellor James Moeser. "The Southern Historical Collection is the perfect place for the university to lovingly document his distinguished career. And we are delighted to celebrate this announcement as part of our Memorial Hall celebration, making another strong connection between the performing arts and a vital part of our academic community, the library."

The Southern Historical Collection already has some Griffith materials – mostly 16 millimeter reels of television footage and feature films – as well as materials from actress Frances Bavier, "Aunt Bea" on "The Andy Griffith Show." Griffith’s items were part of a 2001 biographical exhibit in Wilson Library that attracted the most visitors of any exhibit in recent years. The library has commercially produced recordings from Griffith in the Southern folklife and North Carolina collections.

Walter C. "Tim" West, curator of manuscripts and director of the collection, said he expected the new Griffith materials to attract strong interest among the general public, the thousands of Southern scholars who visit the collection annually and the university community.

"We have been pleased with the response to past efforts to spotlight our early holdings of Andy Griffith materials and expect such interest to grow when this new collection is completed," he said. "We are honored that Andy is entrusting such valuable and culturally important materials to the Southern Historical Collection. They will have a good home on the campus where he learned his craft."

A native of Mount Airy, Griffith graduated from UNC in 1949, earning a bachelor’s degree in music. He was president of the campus glee club and a member of the Carolina Playmakers and the music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha. He received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1978. He established the Andy and Cindi Griffith Scholarship in the departments of dramatic art and music. In 1993, Griffith helped the university celebrate its Bicentennial Observance by providing the voiceover for public service announcements focusing on Carolina’s role as the nation’s first public university.

Griffith’s best-known Chapel Hill connections included his 1953 monologue, "What It Was, Was Football," performed in Kenan Stadium and later recorded and distributed through Capitol Records, selling more than 800,000 copies.

His career highlights include starring in the Broadway hit, "No Time for Sergeants" and playing Will Stockdale, a role that he reprised in the movie of the same name in 1957. Also that year, he appeared in Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd" playing Lonesome Rhodes, generally considered his greatest film performance. "The Andy Griffith Show" debuted in 1960, starring Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor and was on the air for eight years, becoming television’s top-rated program in its final year.

Griffith went on to do several movies, television specials, made-for-television movies and series including "The Headmaster," "Salvage 1" and the long-running "Matlock" series, which began in 1986 with Griffith playing Ben Matlock, a criminal defense lawyer. In 2003, the network TV Land donated a bronze statue for Raleigh's Pullen Park that depicted a carefree moment from the opening sequence of "The Andy Griffith Show," the sheriff walking to the fishing hole with his son Opie.

Griffith also recorded three music albums. One of those, "I Love to Tell the Story," won a Grammy Award in 1997.

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Related links: www.unc.edu/peformingarts

News Services contact: Mike McFarland, (919) 962-8593, mike_mcfarland@unc.edu