‘The Andy Griffith Show’: This Actor Played A Slow-Witted Character on the Comedy – And Had a Biology Degree in Real Life

Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor
Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor | CBS via Getty Images

It’s hard to believe, but one of the more dim-witted characters on The Andy Griffith Show was actually quite intelligent in real life.

In fact, this actor who was on the show for many years, had a particularly scientific mind.

Jim Nabors played Gomer Pyle

Jim Nabors, center, on the 'Andy Griffith Show' set
Jim Nabors, center, on the ‘Andy Griffith Show’ set | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Andy Griffith had discovered Nabors’ incredible talent one 1963 night at a nightclub where the future Gomer Pyle actor was performing.

Daniel de Visé wrote in 2015’s Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show that Griffith found Nabors’ performance “electrifying.”

Nabors sang operatic arias and then in the next breath took on the character of a countrified accent much like Gomer Pyle’s. Griffith was quick to let him know he wanted him on his show.

“Afterward, Andy caught up with Jim on the sidewalk outside,” de Visé said. “‘I don’t know what you do, but it’s magic, whatever it is. If a part ever comes up on our show, I’ll give you a call.’”

George Lindsey played Gomer’s cousin Goober

George Lindsey and Andy Griffith
George Lindsey and Andy Griffith | CBS via Getty Images

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Before long, a part did come up that was perfect for Nabors, “a dim-witted gas-station attendant named Gomer Pyle.”

The producers of the show originally had considered Lindsey (who ended up playing Gomer’s cousin Goober Pyle) for the part. Griffith asked them to wait to meet Nabors first.

Producer Aaron Ruben recalled being impressed with Nabors, according to de Visé. “So in comes Jim Nabors,” he said. “He has a script, he reads, and what he lacked in professionalism and experience he made up for with a certain naive charm that he had.”

Lindsey was none too happy about this shift in casting. During the one episode of Andy Griffith that the two actors appeared in together, de Visé reported Lindsey was still smarting from the experience of being rejected. He wasn’t pleased with having been given what must have seemed to him a less attractive role.

“George had won the part of Gomer in the first place, only to lose it to Jim,” he wrote. “A year later, George had not forgiven him. ‘Jim and I didn’t have a lot of interaction off camera during the filming of that episode,’ George recalled.”

Lindsey was a dedicated student in real life

George Lindsey and Andy Griffith in 2004
George Lindsey and Andy Griffith in 2004 | SGranitz/WireImage

As it turns out, Goober was a smart peanut. The former science teacher, who died in 2012, had degrees in biology and physical education from the University of North Alabama, as he told The Huffington Post in 2010.

Modest in being reminded of his college career, Lindsey said, “Well, if you study, nobody has to be smart to finish college.

“That was one thing in my life that I was going to do, I was going to play first-string college football. I was going to get a college degree and I was going to become a movie star. I didn’t quite make the third one,” he said.