DOBSON — For anyone who’s been wondering why Surry County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars are displaying black ribbons these days, there’s a reason: to honor Andy Griffith.
The ribbons have been attached to the antennas of the entire fleet — about 50 vehicles — with Sheriff Graham Atkinson explaining that it’s a small way of honoring a man who made a large contribution to law enforcement as well as Surry.
Atkinson said the ribbons were added to the cars beginning on Tuesday — when Griffith died — and will displayed until this coming Wednesday.
He said Friday that he personally admired Griffith’s portrayal as Sheriff Andy Taylor, from the standpoint of both a law enforcement officer and a parent.
As a fan of “The Andy Griffith Show,” Atkinson said one of his favorite episodes involves Sheriff Taylor trying to teach Deputy Barney Fife a lesson about balancing the need to enforce the rules along with that of dealing with people.
“You see, Barney, sometimes it is not so much as by the book as by the heart,” is the particular line that Atkinson said made an impression on him. “That has been in the back of my mind a million times when I’ve been doing this job.”
And Atkinson said the visibility the late actor has brought to Surry County, “the boost he’s given to economic development over the years,” also deserves accolades.
“For those of us who were fortunate enough to have met Mr. Griffith, this news leaves us with a wealth of great memories but also a broken heart,” the sheriff said in a press release issued by his office shortly after the actor’s death.
The black ribbons are “just a tribute to him for what he has done for our county,” added Atkinson, who said Griffith also was a big supporter of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association.
Griffith played the sheriff of Mayberry, N.C., in his long-running television show, but the public’s appreciation for what he represents stretches beyond the boundaries of the Tar Heel State, Atkinson said.
“Although the character of Andy Taylor portrayed by Andy Griffith in the ‘Andy Griffith Show’ was a fictitious lawman, the example that character set forth and the ethical and moral lessons taught by that show are and forever will exemplify the best of humankind,” he noted in the press release.
“Through the Andy Griffith Show we were taught how to treat our neighbors as well as how to conduct ourselves.”
The mere mention of the program that espouses small-town charm can be a great ice-breaker, one providing instant credibility to someone from here, Atkinson added Friday.
“If you travel outside North Carolina, and make a reference to the show, they understand exactly where you’re from and what you’re about.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.