October 10th, 2008
The Daily Athenaeum, October 9, 2008
By Katlin Stinespring
West Virginia University students can now experience more of Don Knotts’ background beyond Barney Fife, his character on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Knotts’ widow, Francey Yarborough-Knotts, is fulfilling his wishes to donate various belongings and memorabilia to his alma mater.
“Throughout his life, (Knotts) maintained pretty close ties to Morgantown and always considered himself a West Virginian and a fan of WVU. (Yarborough-Knotts) is following through on his behalf,” said John Cuthbert, curator of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection.
Yarborough-Knotts’ donations include photographs, personal letters, stories and jokes, articles and brochures, promotional materials, and programs from different plays Knotts starred in around the country.
She also donated his personal scripts from his guest star role on the classic television show “Matlock.”
In addition to various memorabilia and scripts currently on display in the WVRHC, many of which represent his days on “The Andy Griffith Show,” these new items will be added later in the fall.
“Most people are not aware that he constantly traveled and did theatre performances around the country. It shows a side to Don Knotts’ career that people are not familiar with. He is only known for his Barney Fife character,” Cuthbert said.
One unique item is a gold watch given to Knotts by Andy Griffith when he left the show.
The number five is engraved at the top and below the words, “See, we thought we’d put 5 on it because you’ve been here 5 years.”
This was intended to be written as if Griffith’s character Andy Taylor was speaking directly to Knotts as Fife.
This latest donation is the third of similar gifts donated to the WVU Libraries.
The initial donation was from Knotts just one month prior to his death when the WVU Libraries contacted him about the possibility of donating some representations of his life and career.
At the time, he donated personal scripts from the movies “The Reluctant Astronaut” (1966), “The Love God” (1968), “The Shakiest Gun in the West” (1967), “How to Frame a Figg” (1970) and “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo” (1976).
“Our Don Knotts collection is important because it helps to create a full picture of Don Knotts and his accomplishments as an actor of stage, screen and television, and as a comedian. Don Knotts not only had an impressive career, but he also had a tremendous impact on television, movies and the world of comedy,” said Monte Maxwell, development representative of WVU Libraries.
Students, faculty and community members can view this collection by visiting the sixth floor of the Downtown Campus Library and registering in the WVRHC, which is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
In addition to the current display and these new items, a major expansion of the Don Knotts collection is planned for 2009 in the Davis Family Gallery in the Downtown Library Complex.