Still image from opening credits of The Andy Griffith ShowFor those who have not yet seen it, here’s my contribution to today’s National Review Online symposium on Fatherhood, in honor of Father’s Day, which is of course this Sunday. The full symposium is available at National Review Online here, and is well worth reading. . . .

There weren’t many good father figures in my neighborhood when I was growing up, and not in my home, either. Fortunately, there were some in the media, and the most important of all for me was Sheriff Andy Taylor of The Andy Griffith Show. Every evening at 6:00, the show appeared in reruns on a local TV station, and I watched every episode.

Sheriff Taylor represented the law, of course, but he had sympathy for others and understood why they did what they did. While silly Deputy Barney Fife strived to put as many people in jail as possible, Sheriff Andy’s goal was to keep order by equipping people to understand what was best for them. He enforced the law wisely, overlooking minor technical violations, to ensure that it served its purpose of keeping public order and encouraging self-reliance and personal responsibility.

That was how he raised his son, Opie. Bringing up the boy without a mother, the busy widower paid what seemed to me an amazing amount of attention to Opie. When Opie did something wrong, Andy punished him, but made it clear that the goal was to enable Opie to think out for himself the rights and wrongs of situations and freely choose to do what’s right.

Andy Taylor was a great character: patient, calm, intelligent, humble, patriotic, Christian, responsible, commonsensical, and compassionate. I wanted to be like him. I’m not, after all, much like him, but so much better than I would have been without his example.