Jesse Donald “Don” Knotts died on February 24, 2006 at the age of 81, he was an American comedic actor.
Born in Morgantown, West Virginia, the son of William Jesse Knotts and his wife, Elsie L. Knotts (née Moore) on July 21, 1924, Knotts’ parents were married in Spraggs, Pennsylvania, in Greene County, just north of Morgantown. Knotts’ paternal ancestors emigrated from England to America in the 17th century, originally settling in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland.
William Knotts had a nervous breakdown due to the stress of Don’s birth, the couple’s fourth child. This was because Don was born so late in his mother’s life; Don’s mother was 40 at the time of his birth.
Afflicted with schizophrenia and alcoholism, William sometimes terrorized his young son with a knife, causing the boy to turn inward at an early age.
Knotts’ father died of pneumonia when Don, the youngest son, was 13 years old. Don and his three brothers were then raised by their mother, who ran a boarding house in Morgantown.
Elsie Knotts died in 1969, at age 84. Her son William Earl Knotts (1910–1941) preceded her in death in 1941, at age 31.
They are buried in the family plot at Beverly Hills Memorial Park, in Morgantown.
In a TV Guide interview in the 1970s, he said that he had grown tired of playing straight man for a hunk of wood when he was in the Army.
According to Knotts, he tossed the dummy overboard off a ship in the South Pacific.
He swore that he could hear the dummy calling for help as the ship sailed on, leaving him bobbing helplessly in the waves.
Knotts got his first major break on television in the soap opera Search for Tomorrow where he appeared from 1953 to 1955.
He came to fame in 1956 on Steve Allen’s variety show, as part of Allen’s repertory company; most notably in Allen’s mock “Man in the Street” interviews, always as an extremely nervous man.
He remained with the Allen program through the 1959-1960 season.
From October 20, 1955 through September 14, 1957, Knotts appeared in the Broadway version of No Time for Sergeants, in which he played two roles, listed on the playbill as a Corporal Manual Dexterity and a Preacher.
Knotts believed remarks made by Griffith that The Andy Griffith Show would be ending after five seasons, and he began to look for other work, signing a five-film contract with Universal Studios.
He was caught off guard when Griffith announced that he would be continuing with the show after all, but Knotts’ hands were tied.
In his autobiography, Knotts admitted that he had not yet signed a contract when Griffith made his decision, but he had made up his mind believing that he would not get this chance again.
Knotts left the series in 1965.
In 1979, Don Knotts returned to his successful TV roots, joining the risqué hit comedy Three’s Company as the eccentric, leisure suit-clad landlord Mr.Furley.
He remained on the show until it went off the air in 1984. In 1986, he joined his Andy Griffith Show co-stars, including Griffith and Ron Howard, on a wildly popular TV movie special, Return to Mayberry.
Teaming with Griffith once more, Knotts played a pesky neighbor in a recurring role on Griffith’s courtroom drama series, Matlock, from 1988 to 1992.