R.I.P. Betty Lynn, who played Barney Fife's love Thelma Lou

She toured Asia during USO shows, became fast friends with Bette Davis, and retired to the real-life Mayberry.

The Everett Collection

MeTV will be airing a tribute to Betty Lynn tonight, October 18, starting at 8P | 7C with two episodes of The Andy Griffith Show that spotlight Thelma Lou — "Cyrano Andy" at 8PM | 7C and "Barney Gets His Man" at 8:30PM | 7:30C.

Betty Lynn, known by Mayberry fans for her recurring role as Barney Fife's love interest Thelma Lou, passed away on Saturday, October 16, after a brief illness. The actress was 95.

The news was reported by the Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy, North Carolina. Mount Airy is known as the "real-life Mayberry" due to Griffith basing the fictional town on his small former hometown. Lynn lived in Los Angeles until 2006. After an appearance at Mayberry Days in Mount Airy, she fell in love with the place. After her home was burglarized back in L.A., she made the decision to move to the small Carolina town. She remained there until her passing.

Her start to show business was, however, anything but small. As a teenager, she toured Asia with USO shows after spotting an audition notice while singing in her hometown of Kansas City. Soon the 17-year-old found herself bouncing in a Jeep on a road to Mandalay in Myanmar (then called Burma). She slept with a pistol under her pillow after a Marine handed her one for protection.

After the war, Lynn signed a contract with 20th Century Fox. By 1948, she made her film debut in Fox's Sitting Pretty.

It was on the film sets that Lynn made an unlikely friend. After appearing in a couple of films with Bette Davis, notably June Bride (1948) and Payment on Demand (1951), she struck up a friendship with the notoriously prickly star. Davis even affectionately called her "Boo". 

She had only seen The Andy Griffith Show twice when she got the role as Thelma Lou. For her 26 episodes, she was paid $500 each (around $4,000 in today's dollars). 

Despite her sweet-as-pie love life on the show, she was never married. She was, however, engaged three times to the same man. The third time was not the charm and she broke it off for good only four days before the wedding when her fiancé said he also had feelings for another woman. When she called the church to cancel, the bishop said, "I'm sorry." She replied, "I'm not."

While she left the show shortly after Don Knotts did, she fully embraced Andy Griffith fans for years to come. After moving to Mount Airy, she was known for signing autographs at The Andy Griffith Museum every third Friday of the month for fans that would come from miles around.

"I think God’s blessed me," Lynn said in a 2015 interview with The Associated Press. "He brought me to a sweet town, wonderful people, and just said, 'Now, that’s for you Betty.'"

Lynn had been working on an autobiography at the time of her death that is expected to be released posthumously, the museum reports.

Watch The Andy Griffith Show on MeTV!

Weeknights at 8 & 8:30, Sundays at 6 & 6:30 PM

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jacko3 29 months ago
Betty Lynn, "Thelma Lou" - a really fine lady and actress ~ LORD Bless her soul & legacy ...Amen - Alleluia!
gmail 31 months ago
To all the Mom's and Dad's, sitting up all night, starting fresh this morning of putting that contraption designed by Dr. FRANKENSTEIN, together and after all your frustration and pain, only to be climaxed by the child playing and having fun with the box...I still recall the look on my Father's face, sitting back and laughing with a tear running down his cheek, just because I was happy with a box!
gmail 31 months ago
To all the young and old, who are young at heart.

Merry Christmas!
gmail 32 months ago
If I were you, in order to advertise Perry Mason or Andy Griffith, with Klinger or Burnett make the entire commercial b/w. Adds more realism.

Why does a person have to go through a lot to get to the area to post a comment. Unless I have missed it, it. It would appear better to have a button to go directly to POST.

Again, why didn't you do a tribute to Betty Lynn? Come to think of it, I don't recall one for Dean Stockwell...

Has METV decided not to do those anymore, those were a fitting tribute to them in a way it sort of personified their accomplishments and gave us a brief few seconds to remember them!
RichLorn 33 months ago
Besides being Barney's best girl, I'll always remember her from the movie Sitting Pretty as the babysitting bobbysoxer. She sure could do a mean Lindy!
BalboSaggins 33 months ago
I used to think of eating whipped cream off her. Shame
smuttt 33 months ago
R.I.P. I will keep your sign picture for every.

glennh3365 33 months ago
I loved Thelma Lou. All good things end.
cwboyfan56 33 months ago
Rest In Peace Betty Lynn . You were an American treasure on the Andy Griffith show and will live on in Mayberry forever.
SteveThames 33 months ago
Every day another piece of my youth passed 🥲
Rita6868 33 months ago
RIP Betty Lynn.So pretty and sweet.You fit in the show perfectly.Thank You for meeting the fans and for signing things for them.The rest of the bunch would have loved that.Say hi to Barney,Andy & Helen.You guys can talk about the Diner and the Duck Pond.Thanks for warming our hearts.Love you always.
KirwoodDerby 33 months ago
Betty was also a very close friend of Margaret Hamilton , of wicked witch of Oz fame. I love all of her appearances on TAGS . Especially when she’d give Barney a bloody nose.
God bless you “Thelma Lou” . You brought joy into so many lives.
JHP 33 months ago
as a line from an ep

"we are not spring chickens anymore"
Lojagu 33 months ago
People often claim that the color episodes of TAGS (which I personally enjoy) were of poor quality as compared to the B&W episodes. In my opinion, one notable exception has to be The Return of Barney Fife (1966), when Barney (on his first return trip to Mayberry) and Andy attend their high school reunion and welcome the return of Thelma Lou, who had also recently moved away but got married during that brief interlude. The sad and dejected look on Barney’s face when Thelma Lou introduced her new husband to him was both unforgettable and probably a first time of such sadness for a main character of a sitcom back in those happy-go-lucky days when sitcoms were made to only make us smile and laugh, not feel empathy and sadness. Barney felt that his future was destroyed. Thank goodness that Return to Mayberry, as bad as the hijinks and filming location were, had the main story line that brought Barney and Thelma Lou back together for the rest of their lives after twenty years apart, as they were always meant to be.

I truly empathized with Barney. I cry every time I watch that particular episode and TV reunion movie. This story was very special to me because the story of my wife and me getting together was very similar to that of Barney and Thelma Lou. We were together for a while then, due to her travel visa expiring, had to go our separate ways and became thousands of miles apart during which time she married somebody else. A dozen years later, we were reunited for one evening, after which she divorced him, then we eventually got married on the 14th anniversary of our first time meeting. We’ve been married now for over 23 years.

Betty Lynn, thank you for your outstanding work in The Return of Barney Fife and Return to Mayberry. Those stories helped to give me the courage to seek my own happiness. RIP with Barney and the rest of the gang.
klt83 Lojagu 33 months ago
That episode was just so out of character for the show. "Gee Barney, I know your heart's broken but looky here. Donna Sue has been a secret admirer of yours for years." I know I'm exaggerating (slightly) but I deliberately skip this episode every time it airs on any network. I'm glad the reunion movie set things right in the Mayberry world.
Lojagu klt83 33 months ago
I used to agree that “the ol’ switcheroo” to Donna Sue after the intense Thelma Lou scene was too corny, and I would always fast-forward through that part. Then I watched it again and realized that Barney’s whole character that he allowed us to see for five seasons before then was nothing but a facade to show his town mates that he was as good as or better than everybody else. It was rare (and in no episode more effectively than in this one) that he would allow others to see his true lack of self-confidence and self-worth that he felt about himself. I believe the writers added the Donna Sue scene as a relief to the drama as well as to remind us that he could easily summon back his reliable facade. However, in the final scene while sitting outside in the car with Andy after the reunion, you can once again see how devastated he truly was. It was rare for a sitcoms episode to end so sadly, but it was done to great effect here. This is my absolute favorite episode of TAGS, one which I try never to miss. And, yes, I agree. Thank goodness Return to Mayberry was made to bring Barney his long-awaited happiness, if for no other really good reason.
Nala92129 Lojagu 32 months ago
Wasn't her name "Nettie Albright?"
Lojagu 33 months ago
First Arlene Golonka, now Betty Lynn. Those two nice gals from Mayberry both left us in the same year. RIP to both of them. They’re together with Sam and Barney and almost everybody else now. I believe only Opie, Ellie, and Charlene (along with one of her Darling brothers) are still left now amongst the main cast (those actors who appeared in one role for at least ten episodes or so).
Rita6868 Lojagu 33 months ago
Yes it is sad.2 sweet ladies.Love both!
JeffSchafer 33 months ago
"MeTV will be airing a tribute to Betty Lynn tonight, October 18".
MeTV, you sent this e-mail on October 20th. You usually send these on Wednesdays & Saturdays.

If you're going to show tribute shows, show them AFTER your Bi-Weekly e-mails so that viewers know ahead of time, not AFTER you have already shown the shows.
Rita6868 JeffSchafer 33 months ago
Agree! Got my letter 10-20.I watch everyday but it was a repeat of the last game of preseason and 1st game of the nba season 10-18 and 10-19.I missed her tribute.
sixslugs 33 months ago
Betty was a natural beauty
hpstyles sixslugs 32 months ago
Yes, she was. Yes, she was!
sixslugs 33 months ago
What a mess our country is in
AllisonWunderland sixslugs 33 months ago
...and that's putting it mildly 👍
JHP sixslugs 33 months ago
LOL you are sooooooo correct - a mess? I've seen better septic tanks
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