LOS ANGELES (CNN) — George Lindsey, the actor who portrayed the country-bumpkin mechanic Goober Pyle on “The Andy Griffith Show,” died Sunday after a brief illness, his family said. He was 83.
Lindsey’s character Goober Pyle joined the hit sitcom in 1964 as the cousin of Gomer Pyle, played by Jim Nabors. When the show ended four seasons later, Lindsey continued as Goober for three years on the sequel series “Mayberry R.F.D.”
“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.'” said Andy Griffith. “They were for me, too.”
Co-star Ron Howard remembered Lindsey as “warm, intelligent and lovable,” in a post on Twitter.
“He generated lots of laughs & raised a lot of money for Special Olympics,” Howard tweeted.
The Fairfield, Alabama, native never escaped the stereotyping that the Goober Pyle role brought him. Lindsey embraced it for another 20 years as a regular on TV’s “Hee Haw,” by wearing the familiar hat and clothes of Goober, and carried the character on the road for decades of stand-up comedy shows.
Lindsey auditioned for the Gomer Pyle role when the show started in 1962, but he was edged out by Nabors, the family’s obituary said. When he saw that first episode on TV featuring Nabors as Gomer, he kicked his television screen because he was upset for losing the part.
“Not only that, but now I didn’t have a TV to watch ‘Ben Casey’ on,” Lindsey wrote in his autobiography. He was finally added to the cast as Goober, eventually taking over the job of running Mayberry’s gas station when Gomer joined the Marines with his own spinoff show, “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”
Lindsey turned to acting after a stint in the U.S. Air Force and then as a high school teacher. He studied at the American Theater Wing in New York for two years while working as a comedian in nightclubs and coffeehouses. An agent from the William Morris Agency saw his work and signed him.
That representation led to stage roles, including the production of “All American” at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre.
Lindsey moved to Los Angeles, where his work was mostly in westerns, such as “The Rifleman” and “Gunsmoke.” He also acted in the “The Real McCoys,” “The Twilight Zone” and several Disney productions. He was cast in three episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Hour.”
An obituary released by the Nashville funeral home handling Lindsey’s arrangements said the actor often joked about what he wanted written on his tombstone.
“One choice goes for the joke: ‘I told you I was sick.’ The other goes for the heart: ‘I hope I made you laugh.’ ”
Lindsey is survived by his son George Lindsey Jr., daughter Camden Jo Lindsey Gardner, and two grandsons.
By Alan Duke, CNN