Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Fans from around the world are taking time to look back on their favorite Andy Griffith moments. But those who knew him before he was famous have an even deeper reason to be grateful for his life and his lessons.
"He was really fair. He knew how to teach. He knew how to treat you with respect and give you responsibility," recalls Fran Potter.
Long before he was everyone's favorite small town sheriff or courtroom litigator, Andy Griffith was Fran Potter's drama teacher at Goldsboro High in North Carolina. "It was a very serious thing for us, because we had really high expectations," she says.
Griffith was the assistant drama director at Goldsboro and he cast Potter as the lead in one of his plays. When she was late to rehearsal after attending a military funeral, the director wanted her off the stage. "Griffith said, 'No, I chose her," explains Potter, "He was very gracious."
It was a gesture that ultimately benefited the City of Columbia. "Fifty years of volunteerism with the city, and it comes out of that," Potter says, "Speaking tools, control in public tools, that you get from a good drama/theatre teacher. What I gained from him helped me be a better activist."
To his students, his stardom didn't come as a surprise. "He was very ambitious, always. You knew from the very beginning that he wanted to go, first to New York. That was his goal," she says.
And Potter is happy to share her teacher with those who learned lessons from him as well, throughout the world. "You have to be grateful that he left behind this immense amount of work," she says.
Potter says one of her classmates did invite Griffith to her 50th high school reunion, but he was shooting at the time and wasn't able to attend.