Did you ever see the Andy Griffith Show episode where Gomer makes a citizen’s arrest on Barney for making a U-turn on the main street? Take a look.
Baseball cap on sideways. Oily rag in back pocket. Impeccable logic. Steadfast loyalty to rules.
Gomer Pyle was always more than he seemed. So was the man who created that character.
Jim Nabors died today, and while he was a man born in Alabama, migrated to California and eventually settled in Hawaii, his Gomer Pyle character will always rank him as a North Carolinian as well – a North Carolinian who was accessible and relatable to so many who watched and continue to watch the Andy Griffith Show.
If what I have gleaned about Jim Nabors’s life is correct, he was born in the South and went to California and started working in the film industry. He began doing small time theatre and stage acting along with singing.
And Jim Nabors had a beautiful voice. My grandmother had his records in the house I grew up in. The stark contrast from his Gomer Pyle accent and his classically groomed baritone voice was just a reflection of his range as a performer.
We did not have cable growing up. We had an antenna for CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, and WTBS which aired episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., and the Carol Burnette Show. Jim Nabors was in all three, one of which showcased him as the star. I even remember him in a Sid and Marty Croft Saturday morning show when kids actually watched Saturday morning cartoons.
This middle aged public school teacher can remember the iconic “G-o-o-o-l-l-e-e” and the “Shazam!” and the “Gosh!” that became a staple of Nabors’s character.
Then I think of the fact that he was stage trained, worked in the film industry, was a singer (and therefore in the performing arts), and he played a character who was always more than he seemed.
Jim Nabors made an indelible impression on everyone who watched him perform and his Gomer Pyle is as Old State as it gets.
But the North Carolina that Gomer Pyle loved was a place where the film industry thrived and the arts were celebrated and woven into the fabric of schools. Is that the North Carolina we have today?
Of course NC still remains devoted to the military, but considering the public life of Gomer Pyle and the private life of Jim Nabors, NC has moved away from some of the very foundational tenets someone like Jim Nabors would have wanted to still remain.
Makes this citizen want to scream for a “Citizen’s Arrest.”