George Lindsey: Philanthropist, golfer, and proud Alabaman
Lindsey was a passionate supporter of the Alabama Special Olympics.
Apparently, George Lindsey really didn't like to be called Goober. But it was the role that made him famous! Across three different shows, The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry R.F.D., and finally on Hee Haw, George Lindsey was Goober. It's easier, though, to distance the actor from his role when you begin to learn more about George Lindsey's life outside of Hollywood.
When Mayberry R.F.D came to a close, Lindsey was living in Tarzana. He'd commute from the San Fernando Valley all the way to Nashville for Hee Haw tapings. Even though he hung his hat in the City of Angels, Lindsey's heart was with his native Alabama. And so, Montgomery, Alabama was the site of his annual "George Lindsey Celebrity Weekend and Golf Tournament."
That weekend wasn't just about getting together with his famous friends. Lindsey put in hard work to raise money for charities he was passionate about. In 1983 alone, Lindsey raised $61,000 for the Alabama Special Olympics fund. Three years prior, he built and opened the George Lindsey Aquatic and Therapeutic Center at the Partlow State School in Tuscaloosa.
"Not a week, sometimes not even a day goes by that I don't do something for it," Lindsey told the Los Angeles Times. "Contact a potential player, talk to a sponsor, line up some gifts, all sorts of things."
"I do it for Alabama because I'm from Alabama and it is the people of Alabama who get the benefits. That's the way it'll always be."
Celebrity attendees the first year included the other Pyle, Jim Nabors, along with Pat Buttram, Melba Montgomery, Freddie Hart, Sandi Posey, Rozetta Jackson, and Fannie Flagg. Over the following two decades, the charity grew in scope and in its reputation.
"I brought Ernie Borgnine and a few other friends from Hollywood, people who'd never been seen in person in Montgomery, and we put on another show, but the biggest coup was getting the Bear (Alabama football coach Bear Bryant) to play in the tournament," said Lindsey.
"No other sports event in our state draws the quality of celebrities that Goober's golf tournament does, and Coach Bryant felt flattered that he was invited to be with these people. Although he probably was the biggest celebrity there, he didn't think of himself that way. To himself, Coach Bryant was always just a country boy from Fordyce. He was as much a fan of the entertainers as anyone at the tournament."
Lindsey worked tirelessly for the foundation and even designed its logo himself. Appropriately enough, the logo featured a golf ball wearing Goober's cap on it.
"I never liked playing in a tournament and getting a shirt with someone else's name on it, like you do at nearly every celebrity event," said Lindsey. "I have a lot of fine shirts, but I don't feel like wearing one with Glen Campbell, or Charlie Pride, or someone else's name on it. People who play in my tournament can wear their shirt anywhere, but wherever they go, people always say, 'I see you played in Goober's tournament.' It's like the Masters logo. It doesn't say 'Masters,' or 'Augusta' or anything like that, but when you see it, you know it's the Masters."