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Ron Howard and Jim Nabors Remained Friends Decades After ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

Ron Howard and Jim Nabors Remained Friends Decades After ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

Jim Nabors became the first real breakout star from The Andy Griffith Show back in the 1960s… when Ron Howard was still a kid.

Nabors, of course, played gas station attendant Gomer Pyle between 1962 and 1964. Some of his memorable episodes included yelling for Barney’s “Citizen’s Arrest” and getting caught in a haunted house with Barney and Andy.

Yet the show’s producers had another sitcom idea. It would involve Gomer Pyle joining the United States Marine Corps. Mind you, this sitcom also would air while the Vietnam War was blazing millions of miles away. Still, Jim Nabors left Ron Howard and the rest of the cast behind.

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. became a smash hit for CBS, pairing Nabors with Frank Sutton, who brilliantly played Sgt. Frank Carter. The back-and-forth between Pyle and Carter drew laughs from millions of viewers.

Jim Nabors’ Success Hurt Andy Griffith, Don Knotts

Ironically, though, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts were not fans of Nabors’ success. Seeing him doing so well beyond The Andy Griffith Show didn’t sit well with them at all. Knotts reportedly admitted to feeling threatened by Nabors’ success when speaking with a psychiatrist. Griffith cut off ties with Nabors, too.

One person who did not begrudge Jim Nabors was Ron Howard. Nabors left The Andy Griffith Show‘s set for his sitcom in the mid-1960s. Therefore, he didn’t always run across Howard.

But that didn’t mean Jim Nabors wasn’t on Ron Howard’s mind. Nabors revealed as much when speaking in 2014 with Indianapolis Monthly. In this interview, Nabors talks about his time opening up the Indianapolis 500. For years, Nabors’ voice became synonymous with a performance of Back Home Again in Indiana.

Yet the interviewer turned questions toward Nabors’ time on The Andy Griffith Show. Jim Nabors was asked if he stayed in touch with anyone from the old show, and he brought up Ron Howard, MeTV reports.

Ron Howard Letter Touches Nabors Deeply

“I got a letter from him the other day, and it was the sweetest note,” Nabors said. “A very personal thing, and I was dumbfounded to get it. He was talking about how he just turned 60. See, I’ve known Ron since he was 6 years old.”

“He wrote this letter, and he said that he was going to have a party for his 60th birthday,” Nabors said. “But it coincided with the Academy Awards and too many of his friends wouldn’t be able to come. He said if he ever did decide to have the party, I would certainly be on the top of the list.”

Before this interview, though, Jim Nabors and Ron Howard’s paths did cross at least once. In 1986, many of the Griffith show cast members popped up in Return to Mayberry. With knowledge of this letter, we also know that Ron Howard did reach out to Jim Nabors later in life.

Nabors performed at the Indy 500 from 1972 to 2014, with a few missed years here and there. He died in 2017, a few years after marrying his longtime partner, Stan Cadwallader. Jim Nabors’ singing voice, along with his acting talents are sorely missed yet kept alive thanks to YouTube.