Don Knotts was not the only Don Knotts in his high school
The other Don Knotts caused confusion amongst his classmates years later.
You think you would remember a thing like serving alongside Barney Fife in the war. But decades later, memory can be fuzzy. This is why, in 1988, a man named only as J.S. from Idaho Falls wrote to Hollywood gossip columnist Dick Kleiner and asked this:
"Dear Dick: Can you tell me if Don Knotts of TV and movie fame is the same Don Knotts I served with back in the Navy in '43. We were at Kiska in the Aleutians. This Don Knotts was from Morgantown, W.V."
Well, Don Knotts of The Andy Griffith Show was from Morgantown! The city even erected a bronze statue of its most famous son. But this could not have been that Don Knotts. Why? The Barney Fife actor had served in the Army, not the Navy. So what gives?
Six whole months later, a feller named Don Knotts from Morgantown wrote to Dick Kleiner and cleared up the matter:
"I am the Don Knotts who served in the Navy in '43 in the Aleutians. And, curiously, I went through high school with the other Don Knotts in Morgantown, W. Va.. Everyone called him 'Little Don' and me 'Big Don.' Thought you'd like to know."
Oh, how we do like to know! The knock-kneed Don Knotts of Hollywood fame was called "Little Don" as a teenager? That makes sense. But what else is there to know about "Big Don"? We were curious. In fact, we think we found him.
Not too long ago, a vintage 1940 Morgantown High School yearbook went up for auction online. This edition of the "Mohigan" yearbook featured a signature from "Don Knotts" and the name "Don" scribbled next to a photo of a Don Knotts. The other one, seemingly. You see, this was the 1940 Yearbook, and the page is clearly members of the junior class. The famous Don Knotts graduated MHS in 1942.
Comparing the signature (this other Don charmingly wrote, "Remember the Scout Dance") in the yearbook to an autograph by Don Knotts shows differences. The famous Knotts crossed both of the T's in his name with a single, quick swoop. This John Hancock does not have that.
The same young man can be seen in the 1941 Mohigan yearbook. Here, he is now a senior. (Remember, famous Don graduated in '42.) And just in case you were still thinking this is Barney Fife, look at the fine print. It says this "Donald Knotts" lettered in football for three years. Can you imagine scrawny "Little Don" playing football?
Look at "Little Don" rehearsing a play in high school. Now, look at some Morgantown High School football highlights from around the same time. Yeah, we can't see Mayberry's Knotts on that field. No disrespect.
But all this makes us wonder — could anyone confuse "Little Don" with "Big Don"? Perhaps it was just wishful thinking.
To be fair, it is pretty odd that two different Don Knotts went to school together in West Virginia!
"I wish you let me — and the rest of us — know if you and 'Little Don' were related," Dick Kleiner responded in his column. We're assuming they were not. That seems like something Big Don would have bragged about.