M. SCOTT MORRIS: Saying so long to an old friend

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

This modern world allows us to become old friends with people we’ve never met. One of those friends was George “Goober” Lindsey, a good ol’ Alabama boy who came into our homes thanks to “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Mayberry R.F.D.” and “Hee Haw.”
Lindsey died on May 6, and I know I’m not the only resident of TV Land who stopped to send good thoughts his way.
I interviewed Lindsey in 2004, when he was scheduled to speak at the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce banquet.
“I’ve been to Aberdeen twice and really had a good time there,” he told me during a phone interview. “It’s kind of Mayberry-ish, which is a good thing.”
During our conversation, I made the mistake of thinking of Lindsey as an old acquaintance, rather than someone I was encountering for the first time.
“Does Jim Nabors ever let you hang out at his place in Hawaii?” I said.
“What do you mean, let me?” he said.
A line had been crossed. Lindsey was originally slated to play “Gomer” Pyle on “Andy Griffith,” but Nabors got the role.
“Goober” came on the scene after Nabors went on to star in “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” It turns out the pair didn’t have the friendliest of relationships.
The interview could’ve crashed and burned, except for Lindsey’s graciousness.
I said something like, “I apologize, Mr. Lindsey. I keep thinking of you as someone I’ve known all my life and forgetting that we’re talking for the first time.”
He accepted the apology. I wasn’t the first to assume familiarity.
“They want to know about Opie, Aunt Bea, Floyd, Otis, Gomer, Andy, Barney and everybody,” he said.
I got the sense Lindsey was a good guy all the way to the bone, and the record backs that up. He raised more than $1,000,000 for Alabama Special Olympics and supported the Alabama Association of Retarded Citizens.
He funded scholarships at his alma mater, the University of North Alabama, and established the George Lindsey Television and Film Festival at the school.
His Hollywood career included appearances on “M*A*S*H,” “The Rifleman,” “Twilight Zone” and many more. Kids can hear his voice in Disney’s “The Rescuers,” “Robin Hood” and “The Aristocats.”
On a whim at the end of our talk, I asked if he’d mind speaking to my co-worker Ginna Parsons, an unofficial deputy of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Lindsey made Ginna’s month, if not her year.
“I didn’t know what to say,” she said. “I asked him to do his Cary Grant impersonation: ‘Judy, Judy, Judy, Judy.’ He did it.”
Lindsey was 83 when he died, leaving a 60-year legacy of entertaining people and making them happy. We never met in person, but I can’t help thinking of him as a friend.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.