Andy and Barney didn’t just happen

“[Critics and CBS] never saw through to the sophistication underlying the show. If the men aren’t wearing Brooks Brothers and the women aren’t wearing the latest hairstyles and fashions and they’re not discussing something terribly chic at cocktails, then it isn’t ‘sophisticated.’ Andy felt very strongly about that attitude, really resented it….

“Those other shows [‘Green Acres,’ ‘Petticoat Junction,’ ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’] were fine for what they attempted, but ours was a different type of show entirely.”

— Producer Aaron Ruben, as quoted in “The Andy Griffith Show” (1981) by Richard Michael Kelly

Ruben, credited by Griffith with “set[ting] the style of this show” in its early years, applied a crucial sensitivity to the subtle  interplay between Andy Taylor and Barney Fife.  (Just imagine how that could’ve gone amiss!) He died Saturday in Beverly Hills at age 95.

Now THAT was a mea culpa!

“When I was completely taken in by the Communist agitation at Gastonia in 1929, there wasn’t a bigger jackass or a more gullible sap in the State of North Carolina than I was. I knew absolutely nothing about what I was talking about, as I whooped it up continually in this column in support of the murderous Gastonia defendants. My experience in the bloody Gastonia business is THE thing of all  others which has done most to make me distrust so-called ‘liberalism,’  which so often, like mine was then, is not only ignorant and neurotic, but very dangerous.”

— Nell Battle Lewis’s “Incidentally” column in the News & Observer of Raleigh, Dec. 16, 1951 (as quoted in “Battling Nell: The Life of Southern Journalist Cornelia Battle Lewis, 1893-1956” by Alexander S. Leidholdt [2009]).

When Lewis died, N&O editor Jonathan Daniels, who had served simultaneously as her patron and her archvillain, wrote that “Nell Battle Lewis made for herself a name that will be long remembered in North Carolina.”

Through no lack of effort on her part, it hasn’t turned out that way. Leidholdt’s thoughtful and thorough biography, which details Lewis’s transitions from “most versatile” graduate at St. Mary’s School to daring advocate of the underclass to hard-line segregationist, has gone virtually unnoticed. (Hat tips to exceptions Ben Steelman of the Wilmington Star-News  [] and Charles Wheeler of the Greensboro News & Record [].)