Lindsey, who died Sunday at 83, studied at the prestigious American Theater Wing in New York City and appeared in several TV westerns as well as dramas such as “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Hour” before landing the role of Goober Pyle in 1964.
Lindsey embodied the role of Mayberry’s good-natured mechanic for seven straight seasons, four on “The Andy Griffith Show” and three on its sequel, “Mayberry R.F.D.”
To his fans, Lindsey would always be known as Goober, but friends and even casual acquaintances knew better than to confuse the man with his most famous part.
“If you ever met him personally and called him ‘Goober,’ that was the end of your conversation. He would just turn his head away from you,” said local historian Pat Morrison, who was introduced to Lindsey several decades ago when the Jasper native made an appearance at his alma mater, Walker High School.
More recently, Lindsey and Morrison were inducted into the WHS Sports Hall of Fame together.
Morrison said few fans know that Lindsey was the star quarterback of Walker Junior College’s only football team and later earned an athletic scholarship at Florence State Teachers College (now the University of North Alabama).
Sports was a frequent topic of conversation between Lindsey and Morrison.
“He was a really funny man, so I think the only two things he was ever serious about were football and his acting,” Morrison said.
Besides sports, Lindsey and Morrison also had a shared love of Jasper.
Lindsey was born in Fairfield but was raised in Jasper. He spent a large part of his youth at his Aunt Ethel’s gas station. The felt caps that the mechanics wore to keep the grease out of their hair would later inspire Lindsey’s trademark “beanie” on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Local attorney Sappo Black was a lifelong friend of Lindsey’s and was frequently mentioned in the star’s stand-up act and late-night talk show appearances.
It was Black who helped arrange a trip of a lifetime for Brenda Beard and some of her friends during the heyday of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Lindsey agreed to entertain Beard, who was barely out of college, and several of her friends on their road trip to California.
He picked the girls up at their motel and gave them the choice of eating lunch at any of Hollywood’s famed restaurants or sightseeing at Desilu Studios, where “The Andy Griffith Show” and numerous other TV classics were filmed.
They chose the studio and ended up having lunch in the commissary with Lindsey and Griffith and then watched a taping of the show.
Lindsey later took the girls to his home in the canyons to meet his wife and children.
“He spent the whole day with us and was very nice to three girls from Alabama who were out there in Hollywood,” Beard said.
After struggling for years to escape the Goober persona, Lindsey eventually learned to embrace it at fan festivals and cast reunions as well as through his appearances on “Hee Haw” and television commercials.
Local actress and author Edie Hand met Lindsey in the 1980s while he was the spokesperson for Liberty Trouser Company and she was starring as a country bumpkin named Pearl in commercials for Carl Cannon Chevrolet.
“He was a prankster. You could not be with George and not laugh, but what I loved about him most was his giving spirit,” Hand said.
Lindsey raised over $1 million for Alabama Special Olympics between 1973 and 1988.
In 1998, he co-founded the UNA Film Festival, which has connected numerous aspiring filmmakers with accomplished actors from Ernest Borgnine to Billy Bob Thornton.
Family members and friends agree that Lindsey wanted the festival to be part of his lasting legacy.
“He always wanted to be accepted for being a good actor,” Hand said.
Funeral services for Lindsey will be held at 4 p.m. on Friday at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Nashville with burial to follow at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Oak Hill Cemetery in Jasper.