Here’s What Happened to Howard McNear Who Played Floyd the Barber on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

If you were to look back at the history of the great television sitcoms, more often than not you’d find a star at the center of things, but the smart ones surround themselves with an ensemble of actors/characters that become equally as memorable. From The Jack Benny Program to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cheers, Seinfeld and The Office, the evidence is there. But one series that is very much in a league of its own is The Andy Griffith Show.

Running on CBS from from 1960 to 1968 for a total of eight seasons and 249 episodes, The Andy Griffith Show (which is currently airing on the MeTV network) was set in the fictional North Carolina town of Mayberry and focused on Andy Griffith’s single father Sheriff Andy Taylor, who was raising his son Opie (Ron Howard) with the help of their Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier). And then there were the other denizens of the town, notably Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife (Don Knotts), mechanics Goober and Gomer Pyle (George Lindsey and Jim Nabors), town drunk Otis Campbell (Hal Smith) and Floyd Lawson, aka “Floyd the Barber” (Howard McNear), who struck a particularly strong connection with the audience.

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Courtesy Allan Newsome

“What I’ve been hearing for many, many years is that after Andy and Opie and Aunt Bee and Barney, probably the most beloved character on the show was Floyd the Barber,” offers pop culture historian Geoffrey Mark, who is also the author of the definitive book on Lucille Ball’s television appearances, The Lucy Book. “If you watch all the episodes like I have hundreds of times, Floyd the Barber really permeates Mayberry. A lot of Mayberry’s attitudes get revealed through him, because that barbershop was kind of the center of town for the men to gossip in. And there were almost as many scenes in the barbershop as there were in Andy’s office. People just hung out there, so whenever anything happened in town, any storyline where something was going on, there was always a scene at Floyd’s where they discussed it.”

As noted above, playing Floyd was actor Howard McNear, who had enjoyed an extensive career in radio and some television long before he arrived in Mayberry at the age of 56. His character described by Wikipedia as a “vague, chatty barber,” what is truly amazing is that in the middle of the show’s run, Howard suffered a stroke that resulted in the left side of his body being nearly paralyzed. Although he left for a time, he was warmly invited back and managed to make the character even more memorable despite his limitations.

“Before Howard had his stroke,” says Geoffrey, “he was able to be both verbally and physically funny. The character of Floyd was not an airhead in the beginning. He was a caricature of all of the small-town men who had become business owners. They had grown themselves as far as they could possibly grow, which was not very much, and then kind of made themselves into town elders, remarking on everything that went on, because somehow everything in town was their business.”

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