Andy Griffith, Emmett, and the Moravians
Perhaps few photographs are more poignant concerning the common musical interests and spiritual heritage that were shared between Andy Griffith (June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012) and Emmett Forrest (September 3, 1927 – January 12, 2013) than this featured picture. From childhood, Andy and Emmett shared a bond of friendship that endured throughout their lives. On the Andy Griffith Show, Emmett Forrest was fictionalized by the character Emmett Clark the fix-it-man, played by Paul Hartman.
On Saturday morning January 12, 2013, my wife and I received a text message from close friends who live in the hometown of Andy Griffith, Mount Airy, North Carolina. Terry and Connie Freeman had introduced us to Mr. Forrest when Beth and I, along with friends Charles and Chetra, traveled to Mount Airy for a visit. The Freemans were close personal friends of Mr. Forrest and other characters from the Andy Griffith Show. Connie arranged to introduce us to Emmett at the Andy Griffith Museum on the morning of the last Saturday in October 2012. Emmett had been one of the instrumental influences in the conception and construction of the Andy Griffith Museum, and he had agreed to give us a personal guided tour of the facility that held so many memories for so many Americans.
Emmett had been responsible for collecting many of the artifacts, and he knew the details of every display. As we neared the end of the tour, we paused at one of the displays and he began to relate an anecdotal political experience he shared with Andy Griffith. He noted that when nominated for the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2005, Andy Griffith contacted the Democratic governor of his home state of North Carolina for assistance in determining whether he should accept the honor from a Republican president. The governor assured him it would not violate political protocol to accept the honor. Then Emmett went on to note the political difference between himself and Andy. Even with the Democratic Party’s slide into the abyss of liberalism and moral decay, Andy Griffith remained a loyal supporter. Emmett noted that he did not choose the same political path as Andy, saying, “My vote cancelled out Andy’s!”
What the world never realized when it saw Andy Griffith with a guitar in his hand was the fact that his musical start, like Oprah Winfrey, was in the church. One of the first questions Emmett asked me upon meeting was whether I had ever heard of the Moravians. I assured him that I had—what respectable church historian would be unaware of the Moravians and their patron, Nicolas von Zinzendorf, and the great influence they had upon John and Charles Wesley? Emmett went on to explain that it was music that drew Andy Griffith to the Moravian Church, and one pastor in particular.
Andy ordered a trombone from the Speigel’s Catalog for $37 with the money he had had earned working at Mount Airy High School. Unable to play it, he turned to Rev. E. T. Mickey, pastor of the Grace Moravian Church. Riding across town on his bicycle from Haymore Street to North Main Street, he took lessons from Rev. Mickey until Mickey began directing the choir downtown at Central Methodist Church, which shortened Andy’s bicycle ride. The interest of Rev. Mickey in youth and his dedication to music drew Andy and a number of other youth to Grace Moravian Church. Among those youth, Emmett Forrest was also numbered. Here Emmett remained at Grace Moravian Church until his death, January 12, 2013, and here family and friend came to offer their last respects.
The next time you are watching the Andy Griffith Show reruns or DVDs, remember, Andy received his start from the church—because a Moravian pastor loved kids!
America deserves to know its true heritage.
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