Actor/comedian George Lindsey was born in Fairfield, Alabama, but was raised in the city of Jasper. George graduated from Florence State College (now the University of North Alabama) with a Bachelor of Bioscience and taught for a while at Hazel Green High School near Huntsville.
George left for New York and graduated from the prestigious American Theatre Wing, landing co-starring roles in Broadway musicals. After moving to Hollywood, he began acting in small parts on television shows such as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Rifleman, and The Twilight Zone.
Soon after George landed a small role in the film Ensign Pulver in 1964, he became the character known as Goober Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show. He was a regular cast member from 1965 until 1968 and continued in his role of Goober in the spin-off series Mayberry R. F. D. until 1971.
The next year George appeared on a MASH episode as Captain Roy and then began a twenty year run on country comedy variety hour Hee Haw from 1971 until 1992.
Some of his other television appearances include Laugh-In, Merv Griffin, David Frost, The Wonderful World of Disney, Gunsmoke, Banachek, Hollywood Squares, and The Mike Douglas Show.
George’s motion picture credits include Cannonball Run II, The Rescuers, Take This Job and Shove It, Snowball Express, and The Aristocats.
George Lindsey is also a compassionate humanitarian. He has raised more than $1.7 million dollars for the Alabama Special Olympics through the George Lindsey Celebrity Golf Tournaments which were held in Montgomery, Alabama, for seventeen years. This money, through the Olympics, assisted thousands of mentally retarded children.
George established the George Lindsey/UNA Film Festival that takes place annually at the University of North Alabama every spring where hundreds of features, documentaries, short films, and music videos all over the world are submitted and judged in competitions.
George Lindsey graciously consented to give Our Prattville an interview after this year’s Film Festival:
What was life like growing up in the city of Jasper, Alabama?
When I was growing up in Jasper, the population was almost half what it is now, so it was a pretty small town where most people knew each other. It was a lot like growing up in Mayberry.
I’m interested to know why you chose Bioscience as a Major in college.
UNA, it was Florence State Teacher’s College then, didn’t have an acting major when I went to school there. I was on a football scholarship – I was the team’s quarterback and also played defense–so PE and Bioscience sounded like a good combination for an athlete. My majors also prepared me to be a teacher, which I did for a year before I left for New York to study acting.
When you first arrived in Hollywood in the 1960s, were you being specifically hired for roles which required a southern accent or did you feel that there were prejudices against you because you were from the South?
I didn’t have a southern accent when I arrived in California. I had been studying for two years at the American Theater Wing in New York, which took care of my accent. I didn’t feel there were prejudices.
I think it’s great that we have such talented people who are form the state of Alabama. It also is ironic that there were two of you on The Andy Griffith Show…you and Jim Nabors. Did you and Jim become good friends?
We really only got acquainted before he left The Andy Griffith Show to start his new show.
Have you kept in contact with Andy Griffith over the years?
I haven’t seen much of Andy over the years except for projects like Return to Mayberry. We both stayed pretty busy with projects after The Andy Griffith Show.
Do you have a favorite episode from The Andy Griffith Show?
Yes. It was “Goober and the Art of Love.” That’s the episode where Goober peeped through the window at Helen and Andy when they were courting on the couch. Goober was supposed to be learning how to talk to a girl, but of course it had a funny twist.
Can you share any humorous moments you had on the set of the show with your costars? Which one, in your opinion, had the best sense of humor?
It’s hard to narrow down. They were all very good comedy actors, and everyone had a good sense of humor. Andy made it a lot of fun to work on The Andy Griffith Show, so we had a lot of great times.
The George Lindsey UNA Film Festival is held every spring at the University of North Alabama. How did the idea for the festival come about?
I was sitting and talking with the late Bobbie Hurt, who was a journalism professor at UNA, and some other people from the school, and someone said, “Why don’t we have a film festival?” The idea really took off, and the festival has been growing ever since.
This year filmmakers from over a dozen countries sent their films to the festival. That’s something we would never have believed when we first came up with the idea to start a film festival at UNA. I still feel very passionate about the University of North Alabama and feel very fortunate to have gone to school there. I’m happy to be able to honor the school with the film festival.
Do you have any idea how many young people who have submitted their films to the festival have gone on to make their fortune in Hollywood?
We don’t hear from too many of them, unless they send their new films to the festival. I’m just happy we are able to help them get their films shown to audiences and, if they win an award at the festival, give them a little prize money to help them in their careers.
You have also done charity work for the Alabama Special Olympics through the George Lindsey Celebrity Golf Tournaments. I have attended probably ten or more of the tournaments in my hometown of Montgomery and always thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was really sad when it ended – was it just time to move on to something else or did it just get too time consuming to organize each year?
With the help of many good friends, I was able to do some good for people with special needs in Alabama – and I have some very special memories from that time – but it was time to move on to other projects. I still hear from some of the folks who work closely with the special needs children who use the Aquatic Center we built with the money we raised, and it makes me happy to hear the charity tournaments are still helping people.
I applaud all of your charity work and humanitarian efforts. When you’re not busy raising money for charities, what do you do in your spare time … any hobbies?
I work out pretty regularly, and I get to have lunch with special friends almost every day. And, of course, I watch lots of TV.
Please tell us one thing about George Lindsey that we would be surprised to find out about.
I took a lot of dancing lessons in New York.
[Publisher’s Note: The 12th Annual George Lindsey Film Festival was held in Florence, Alabama, on March 5-8. An award of $3,000 was given to the “Best of Show” winnder. An award of $2,000 was given to the “Clyde ‘Sappo’ Black Sweet Home Alabama” winner which is the best film shot at least partially in Alabama. The late Clyde “Sappo” Black was one of George’s dearest friends. Each year Mr. Black’s family sponsors the “Clyde ‘Sappo’ Black Sweet Home Alabama Award.”]
Interview by Melissa Parker
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