On my third and final day of reviewing Andy Griffith’s original scripts at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, I was only able to stay half a day as I had an appointment to meet with a friend who is a longtime resident of Mount Airy.
On my first day in Mount Airy before the Mayberry Meet-Up began, I spent a good deal of time running around town showing shops which might potentially choose to sell Mayberry Firsts in the fall. Even so, I did not get the opportunity to visit them all so I also was able to complete that task by leaving the library a bit early as well.
In my book Mayberry Firsts, I discuss what I personally feel is the likeliest inspiration for Andy Griffith’s character on the show having the last name of “Taylor.”
Of course, the name Taylor is found in nearly any part of the country. There certainly were Taylors who resided in Mount Airy. I stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast my last night in Mount Airy which is on Taylor Street. There is also a Perry Taylor Road. But my friend showed me a Taylor grave monument that was in a small cemetery I did not even know existed.
There is an attorney’s office nearly right across the street from Wally’s on South Main Street. In the back of the parking lot is an iron gate that opens into a small, secluded cemetery that is not listed on most lists of cemeteries in Mount Airy. The marker is so worn, it is difficult to read. The name Taylor and the Masonic square and compasses symbol are easily visible, but the dates are worn badly. It appears to say Taylor died on December 19, 1892, aged 22 years, and an indecipherable number of months and days.
So while the theory I provide in Mayberry Firsts is my personal guess as to what is most likely, there is certainly no way to know for sure as Andy was undoubtedly and not surprisingly exposed to people named Taylor in Mount Airy.
By the way, there is a town called Taylorsville over an hour south of Mount Airy that is sometimes floated as a possible inspiration for the name. I do not think this likely. Regardless, the town was not even so named because of local residents. It was formed in 1847 and named in honor of General Zachary Taylor of Virginia who became a national hero due to victories he won in the Mexican-American War. Two years after the small town’s founding, Taylor’s military record led to his becoming the 12th president of the United States.