Andy Griffith once owned a dog named Lemley Gilbert named after a distant cousin
Andy's cousin Lemley Gilbert is referenced in The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Here's his rarely told story.
Photo credit: Two Chairs No Waiting Podcast via Facebook
For the opening scene of The Andy Griffith Show episode "Opie’s Fortune", Andy and Barney are sitting side by side, each reading different sections of the local newspaper.
Andy’s got the front page, but Barney’s deeper in, reading a local gossip column, which leads him to share how he happened to be privy to some juicy gossip of his own.
When Andy asks how he knows about the inside details of a local couple’s divorce, Barney responds: "Do you know Phoebe Gilbert, Lemley Gilbert’s sister down at the beauty parlor? Well I took her out a couple times and she told me."
On The Andy Griffith Show, the name Lemley Gilbert is only mentioned this one time, but it’s a distinct enough name that some fans of the spin-off show Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. smiled when they heard it repeated on this other show in the Mayberry universe.
On Gomer Pyle, Lemley Gilbert is the name that Gomer gives a German shepherd originally called Killer in the episode "Gomer Un-Trains a Dog".
The repetition of this unusual name was enough to lead some fans to wonder whether there really was a Lemley Gilbert in the real world, and as it turns out, yes there was.
According to The Virginian-Pilot, a batch of old photos of Andy Griffith were dug up one day, and they revealed the truth about Lemley Gilbert.
The photos were taken at Andy’s home in North Carolina, which he shared with his wife Barbara in 1957. Some of the photos show Griffith’s parents, while others show Andy and Barbara surveying a movie script for The Face in the Crowd. But there are two photos that we took particular interest in most of all.
One showed Andy and Barbara with a small West Highland terrier puppy on a dock following a boat ride. The other showed Andy Griffith in a rocking chair with the same puppy in his lap.
That dog, the captions say, was named Lemley Gilbert, and he was given that name, the paper reported, because Andy so admired a Baptist preacher by that name who happened to be one of his distant cousins.
Griffith was known to throw backyard barbecues where he’d grill hot dogs for the cast, and surely his dog Lemley Gilbert would’ve been around for episode writers to meet. The Gomer episode was written by two Andy Griffith Show alums, creator Aaron Ruben and pilot co-writer Jack Elinson. Most likely the name used on the show is referencing the dog that Griffith owned.
But now you know both the dog Lemley Gilbert you saw on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., and the random Mayberry townsperson named Lemley Gilbert who is mentioned but never seen, are both based on a real dog and a real man, and that both dog and man were extremely close to Andy Griffith’s heart.