George “Goober” Lindsey, the comedic actor who rose to fame first on TV's The Andy Griffith Show and then Hee Haw, died Sunday, May 6, at the age of 83, after a brief illness in his longtime hometown of Nashville, Tenn. American Profile was honored to spotlight “Goober” in our Jan. 17, 2007, cover story, below.
Actor-comedian George Lindsey stands at center court in the gymnasium of Wilson High School in Florence, Ala., talking to several hundred students about his acting career during a visit back to his hometown. But it’s Friday afternoon, just minutes before the end of the school week, and the students have become restless.
Suddenly, Lindsey, 71, “moon walks” across the gym floor in a flourish of youthful energy the kids clearly were not anticipating. Cheers and laughter erupt as Lindsey regains their focus. Entertaining audiences is what Lindsey, better known as Goober from The Andy Griffith Show, has been doing most of his life.
“I’ve always been funny,” he says later. “I was voted ‘Funniest Boy’ in the senior class.” Born in Jasper, Ala. (pop. 14,052), Lindsey also was a star high school football player and earned an athletic scholarship to the nearby University of Northern Alabama.
Bitten by the theater bug in college, he left Alabama in the early 1960s to study acting in New York, then headed to Hollywood, where he appeared in various small television parts before landing the role that would define his career. Lindsey portrayed Mayberry’s dim-witted garage mechanic for more than 140 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and its spinoff, Mayberry R.F.D., from 1964 to 1971.
“He was a very kind, caring overachiever,” Lindsey once explained of his Mayberry alter ego. “In a lot of the shows, he solved their problems in his own peculiar way.”
Lindsey drew on his own small-town background for the role, but insists Goober was not simply a carbon copy of himself. “The writers created Goober,” he says. “I just played him. Goober was the kind of character who’d walk into a restaurant and say, ‘Great salt!’ He had just a simpler way of looking at things.”
Since 1992, Lindsey has lived in Nashville, Tenn., where his home is decorated to reflect his wacky sense of humor.
“I was at the mall shopping and there was this life-size mannequin of a girl posed like she was getting ready to dive,” he says. “Well, I bought it. She’s now in my kitchen.”
Jim Clark, president of the Nashville-based Andy Griffith Rerun Watchers Club, comprised of more than 1,250 chapters around the country, attests to the eccentric decor. “George has his home decorated with mounted animal heads, which is not that unusual—until you notice they are all cross-eyed,” Clark says.
Divorced since 1991, Lindsey has two grown children who still live in California. He appears about 75 dates a year in solo comedic performances and as part of the Cornfield Country Show, featuring some of his fellow cast members from the TV series Hee Haw, on which he appeared from 1972 to 1992.
Lindsey also participates each spring in the George Lindsey Film Festival in Florence, which he began in 1998 as a showcase for independent filmmakers (this year’s festival runs March 1-4; for more information, visit www.lindseyfilmfes.com online) and in his annual golf tournament, a fund-raiser for Special Olympics in Montgomery, Ala. Once an avid golfer, Lindsey has been forced to find a new hobby due to his health.
“I have neuropathy in my feet and can’t walk the golf course anymore, so I have taken up a new form of recreation—finding restaurants,” he says. He’s sworn off meat—except for an occasional serving of meatloaf from a local Cracker Barrel restaurant—since a stroke in 1986.
But Lindsey continues to delight fans everywhere through his memories of a bumbling, fumbling garage mechanic—whose influence and popularity extend far beyond the city limits of fictitious Mayberry. “In Goober, George has created a true pop-culture icon,” Clark says. “He helps us find that little—or maybe not so little—Goober in each of us.”