Mayberry elected Andy Taylor Sheriff, Mayors Pike and Stoner, and Sam Jones to the town council. Have you ever wondered about the men who served the fictional city? Each actor, in his own right, was an accomplished performer.
So much has been written about Andy Griffith, that I won’t repeat old material. What is interesting to me, as an amateur magician, is that he was one also. A friend of mine met him, and said he did a good three card monte, which he had carried with him. Andy certainly got a lot of magic out of a make believe little town, and shared it with all of us.
He chose a man born in Boston Massachusetts to be his North Carolina Chief Executive. The actor Dick Elliott, who played Mayor Pike had appeared in over 240 films since the 1930’s. He was the man who told Jimmy Stewart to stop stalling with Donna Reed, and to “just go ahead and kiss her”.
Mr Elliott also performed with Jimmy Durante, Jack Benny, and Red Skelton. He was as comfortable in the old west, appearing in Maverick, Sugarfoot, and Tales of The Texas Rangers, as he was with George Reeves in Superman. As if one Christmas classic wasn’t enough, he was a judge in Christmas In Connecticut.
In case you’re wondering, Mayor Pike didn’t lose an election, Dick Elliott passed away in 1961. They chose another veteran performer, though a little younger, to win Mayberry’s next election in 1962. That was Mayor Roy Stoner.
Parley Edward Baer may have been the second Mayor on the Andy Griffith Show, but he was the first Chester on Gunsmoke. Before the television show ever aired, it ran on radio from 1952 to 1961. William Conrad was Matt Dillon, and Parley Baer was his Chester. A popular Mayberry barber played Doc by the way.
Though the Mayor Stoner character was a cold, calculating politician, the complex opposite of Andy, Parley Baer was a kind, caring man of Faith. He, a man strongly against racism, played a racist in a movie, to expose how evil hatred could be. Parley was proudest of this role, because it taught a lesson against the evils of bigotry.
Parley Baer served many positions in his local Episcopalian Church in California. When his friend Howard McNear died, Parley gave the eulogy. Parley and his wife Ernestine were married for fifty four years, until his death at 88.
During Parley’s long career, he appeared on everything from Burns and Allen, to Mad About You. He even showed up on Dragnet, and Star Trek. Mayor Stoner may not have been one of my favorite characters, but I loved the man who played him.
When the time came for Andy to move on, he introduced us to Sam Jones, as played by Ken Berry. While younger people will know him as Vinton from Mamma’s Family, I knew him from F Troop as Captain Parmenter. Of course I remember when he co starred with Herby The Love Bug, in one of the few non Dean Jones outings.
Ken Berry was a hoofer, singer, actor, and a soldier. It was his Sergeant, Leonard Nimoy, yes that Leonard Nimoy, who encouraged him to go to Hollywood. Everyone from Lucille Ball, to Donald O’ Connor, and Mickey Rooney sang and danced with Ken. He even starred in productions of the theater musicals George M, and The Music Man.
Regardless of the role, Ken Berry kept smiling. The man who starred in a pilot about adopting children, adopted two of his own. As an adopted Dad, It makes me like him even more. Ken Berry was a class act, who used his skill and agility to make others laugh. In the process, he stepped his way into a lot of hearts. After all, it was him that Andy picked to take over Mayberry. What better recommendation could you have, than Sheriff Andy Taylor’s?