This veteran actor and comedian is best known for his high-strung, bug-eyed portrayal of Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968), a role for which he won five consecutive Emmy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy. Knotts was an accomplished comedian before he hit Mayberry, and had a regular stint on the early comedy classic The Tonight Show with Steve Allen, where he honed his nervous, bumbling persona.
Born in West Virginia, Knotts developed a ventriloquist act as a teen, which he performed in and around his hometown of Morgantown WV. When he enlisted in the Army during WWII, he took the act on the road as part of "Stars and Gripes," a special service unit that entertained the troops. After the war, Knotts enrolled in West Virginia University where he majored in theater.
Upon his arrival in New York, Knotts kept busy working comedy clubs and making radio appearances. He met life-long friend Andy Griffith when the two appeared on Broadway in No Time for Sergeants. When The Tonight Show moved to Hollywood, Knotts met up with Griffith again, who told him about a TV show he was developing. It was Knotts who suggested creating the character of Barney Fife.
Knotts went on to translate his awkward, everyman character into numerous television and film roles, including The Incredible Mr. Limpert (1964), The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966), The Shakiest Gun in the West, and two Apple Dumpling Gang (1975 & 1979) flicks with fellow comedian, Tim Conway. Ralph Furley was Knotts' final sitcom role, but he continued to make TV and film appearances almost up until the time of his death in 2006. Twice married, he is survived by a son and daughter.