George Lindsey was not the most famous or versitile actor to ever work television. He is, however, one of the most instantly recognizable as ‘Goober’ on one of America’s most beloved shows-“The Andy Griffith Show”. Following one-off roles on “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, “The Rifleman” and “The Twilight Zone” as well as three episodes of “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour”, Lindsey’s character was introduced in 1964.
The writers tied Goober to the departing Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) after Gomer left to join the Marines (“Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”), making him Gomer’s cousin to maintain consistency in the relationship, especially during Gomer’s cross-over appearances. Lindsey’s character became the village idiot in the fictional Mayberry, a lovable but dimwitted fellow whose efforts to help Andy often turned into disasters.
Lindsey credited Griffith with being his best teacher. “I didn’t know what to make of the character,” Lindsey said. “But Andy told me to play it like it was happening to me, just be myself.” The two remained friends long after the show’s cancellation. Griffith visited Lindsey in Nashville two days prior to his death.
Griffith left the show following the 1967-’68 season but Goober was one of the characters who carried the retooled but lame “Mayberry R.F.D.”. That show was mercifully cancelled in 1971 and Lindsey moved on to “Hee Haw”. “Hee Haw” was a looser version of “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In”, hosted originally by country performers Buck Owens and Roy Clark. The comedy was less topical, taking a back seat to the country music and the scantily-clad “Hee Haw Ladies”. The show ran from 1969-1992 and Lindsey brought his revamped Goober to the festivities in 1972, referred to simply as George.
Unlike his character, Lindsey was no village idiot. Hailing from Fairfield, Alabama, Lindsey attended Kemper Military School before earning a Bachelor of Bioscience degree from Florence State Teacher’s College (now the University of North Alabama). He taught for a year and served proudly in the U.S. Air Force for four years. He then attended and graduated from the American Theater Wing in New York City.
Lindsey remained true to his Alabama roots, raising over $1,000,000 for Alabama Special Olympics during 17 years of hosting his Celebrity Weekend and Golf Tournament. In addition, he participated in the Minnesota Special Olympics National Competition by coaching the Winter Games in Minneapolis.
Lindsey suffered a brief illness and succumbed quiely on May 6, 2012, in Nashville, Tennessee.