Don Knotts (July 21, 1924 – February 24, 2006)
Jesse Donald Knotts was born in Morgantown, West Virginia, Knotts was born when his
mother was 40. Knotts is the sixth cousin of actor Ron
Howard. Knotts spent much of
his Army career entertaining the troops. When he returned home, he earned his bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in 1948 and began his entertainment career. His first national appearance was in 1953 (to 1955) on the soap Search for Tomorrow. He went on to The Steve Allen Show amd The Red Skelton Show. In 1958, Knotts broke into film in No Time for Sergeants, reprising his Broadway role from a year earlier, where he met Andy Griffith. In 1960, Griffith got his own show. Pal Knotts played Deputy Barney Fife and won 5 Emmys. Knotts left Andy Griffith full-time in 1965, though he reprised his role several times until the series ended in 1968. The reason why he left early was Griffith wanted to end the series after five seasons. Believing him, Knotts looked for other work. Griffith then changed his mind, but Knotts had already signed a contract with Universal Studios. Knotts continued making movies and TV appearances before landing back on series television in 1979 on a little show called Three’s Company as landlord Ralph Furley. Even though Three’s Company was an established hit, the cast was terrified of Knotts because of his star status. Three’s Company ended in 1984. Knotts continued on in movies and on TV. His last substantial role was in Matlock from 1987-1995 as neighbor Les Calhoun. (Andy Griffith appeared at the same time on the series.) All told, Knotts was in 32 films, and over 50 TV series/specials/TV cameos.
On February 24, 2006, Knotts died in a Los Angeles hospital from pulmonary and respiratory complications to pneumonia related to lung cancer. He was survived by his two children and third wife. Knotts was 82 years old. In Morgantown, West Virginia, on Don Knotts Boulevard is a memorial park containing his statue.