Betty Lynn
B&W image of smiling actress sitting cross-legged on cushion
Publicity image of Lynn on The Andy Griffith Show, c. 1960
Elizabeth Ann Theresa Lynn

(1926-08-29)August 29, 1926
DiedOctober 16, 2021(2021-10-16) (aged 95)
Other namesBetty Ann Lynn
Years active1948–2006
Known forPortraying Thelma Lou on The Andy Griffith Show

Elizabeth Ann Theresa Lynn[1] (August 29, 1926 – October 16, 2021) was an American actress. She played Thelma Lou, Deputy Barney Fife's girlfriend, on The Andy Griffith Show. During the 1940s and 1950s, she appeared in many films, including Sitting Pretty (1948), June Bride (1948), the original Cheaper by the Dozen (1950), and Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956).[2] She also played a major role in an episode of the television series Little House on the Prairie.

Early life

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1926, Betty Lynn was the only child of Elizabeth Ann (née Lynn) and George A. Dailey.[3][4] Her father was a civil engineer, who worked initially as a municipal employee for Kansas City and later as a private contractor.[5] Her mother, described as "an accomplished mezzo-soprano", taught Betty in her early childhood to sing and enrolled her in the Kansas City Conservatory of Music when she was only five years old.[6][7] Prior to that, according to federal census records, her parents had separated and divorced before April 1930. Their marriage is reported to have been a tumultuous one, with allegations that her father once threatened to shoot her mother in the abdomen when she was pregnant, and that after Betty's birth, he made additional threats that forced her mother on one occasion to hide in a locked closet to protect herself and her baby.[6]

Following her mother's breakup with Dailey, young Betty had little personal contact with her father.[6] She went with her mother to live with her mother's parents, Josie (née Hill) and George Andrew Lynn, who also resided in Kansas City.[8] Betty's grandfather, a railroad engineer, effectively served as her father figure from then on, until his death in Sacramento, California in 1959.[6][9]

USO tour

When she was 17, Lynn auditioned to participate in United Service Organizations entertainment. At age 18 she was part of a USO tour in the China Burma India Theater during World War II. She realized the gravity of the situation when a Marine gave her a pistol saying, "You might need this."[6]

Her activities on the tour included visiting patients in hospitals and singing requests from a repertoire of 725 songs, her primary mission to entertain and console wounded servicemen in military hospitals.[10] She also met recently released prisoners of war from Rangoon, and she was told by a doctor, "Most of them will be out of their minds in six months."[6]

Acting career

Betty Lynn began her acting career in radio as a member of the cast on a daytime drama on a station in Kansas City.[11]

On Broadway,[2] she appeared in Walk with Music (1940), Oklahoma! (1943),[12] and Park Avenue (1946).[13] She was discovered in a Broadway production by Darryl F. Zanuck and signed to 20th Century Fox.[14] A clause in her contract allowed the studio to drop her at six-month intervals, leading to recurring concerns for Lynn. She said, "I was a redhead with freckles and didn't have a bosom. I prayed so hard they’d keep picking me up."[6]

Lynn made her film debut in the 1948 film Sitting Pretty, which won a Photoplay Gold Medal.[13] That same year, she appeared in June Bride with Bette Davis followed by roles in Mother Is a Freshman (1949), Cheaper by the Dozen (1950), and Payment on Demand (1951).[15]

Lynn replaced Patricia Kirkland in the role of Betty Blake in the CBS comedy, The Egg and I (1951–1952),[16] and she played Pearl in the ABC comedy Love That Jill (1958).[16]: 631  During this time she became a neighbor to an infant Mark Evanier, who she said became a close friend.[13]

She was Viola Slaughter in the ABC Western Texas John Slaughter (1958–1962).[16]: 1064  In the 1953–1954 television season, Lynn was cast as June Wallace, the sister-in-law of the Ray Bolger character on the ABC sitcom Where's Raymond?[16]: 1171 

After guest-starring on various television series, including Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, The Gale Storm Show, Sugarfoot, and Markham, Lynn won the role of Thelma Lou on The Andy Griffith Show.[2] Despite playing the role for five years (1961–1966), she appeared in only 26 episodes, and was never signed on to the show (in part because at the time she was cast, she was still under contract for Texas John Slaughter).[13] She recounted, "I didn't want to leave Thelma Lou. I really loved her. I enjoyed her. She was sweet and kind, she was so fun to play, and I loved working with Don Knotts — he was so wonderful."[13] Following the end of The Andy Griffith Show, Lynn continued appearing in various television and film roles.[15] In 1986 she joined her former Andy Griffith Show castmates for the NBC reunion movie Return to Mayberry, in which Thelma Lou finally married Barney Fife.[17]

In 2006, Lynn retired from acting and relocated to Mount Airy, North Carolina, the home town of Andy Griffith and the town on which Mayberry is believed to have been based, despite Griffith's claims to the contrary.[2]

Personal life

Lynn with Ian Oliver Martin on April 18, 2011.
Giovanna and Randy Rayburn with Lynn (center) at Mount Airy, N.C. in 2015.

In 1950 in Los Angeles, Lynn bought a house, where her mother and grandparents moved in and lived with her for years. She thus assumed the off-screen roles of breadwinner and caretaker.[6]

Lynn never married, although she stated she was once engaged.[18] By July 2019, she was still residing in Mount Airy and continued to make monthly personal appearances in town at the Andy Griffith Museum, signing autographs and meeting with her fans.[19] Lynn once commented, "The longer I live here, the more I see things [Griffith] took from his hometown."[13]

A devout Roman Catholic, Lynn regularly attended St. Timothy's Catholic Church in Los Angeles, and after her move to Mount Airy, she joined the local Holy Angels Catholic Church.[17]

After a brief illness, Lynn died in October 2021 at the age of 95.[4][20] At the time of her death, she was working on her autobiography, which is set to be released posthumously.[4] In response to her death, Ron Howard of The Andy Griffith Show wrote about Lynn's cheerful personality both on set as well as away from the cameras:

"RIP Betty Lynn. She played Thelma Lou on #TAGS & brightened every scene she was in & every shooting day she was on set. I saw her last a few years ago where she still lit up the room with her positivity. It was great to have known and worked with her. She truly was 95yrs young".[21]


Lynn was inducted into the Missouri Walk of Fame, located in Marshfield, Missouri, in 2007.[22] Nine years later on August 30, 2016, she was presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honor bestowed in North Carolina, by the state's lieutenant governor Dan Forest, having been granted it by governor Pat McCrory.[23]

Partial filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1948 Apartment for Peggy[24][25] Wife Credited as Betty Ann Lynn
Sitting Pretty[24][15] Ginger Credited as Betty Ann Lynn
June Bride[24][15] Barbara Brinker
1949 Mother Is a Freshman[24][15] Susan Abbott
Father Was a Fullback[24][25] Constance "Connie" Cooper
1950 Cheaper by the Dozen[24][15] Deborah Lancaster
1951 Payment on Demand[24][15] Martha Ramsey
Take Care of My Little Girl[24][25] Marge Colby
1956 Meet Me in Las Vegas[24][25] Young Bride Alternative title: Viva Las Vegas!
1957 Gun for a Coward[24][15] Claire
1959 Louisiana Hussy[24][15] Lili Guillot
The Hangman[24][25] Hotel Cafe Waitress
Year Title Role Episode(s)
1958 M Squad[26] Susan Baines "The Trap"
1958 Lawman[27] Edna Phillips "The Oath"
1958 Wagon Train[15][28] Molly Richardson "The Dick Richardson Story"
1958 Bronco[15] Molly Bailey "Baron of Broken Lace"
1959 Tales of Wells Fargo[29] Mary Francis "The Bounty Hunter"
1959 Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer[15] Mona "Pen Pals"
1959 Sugarfoot[15] Sarah Sears "The Royal Raiders"
1959 Sugarfoot[15] Alice Fenton "The Twister"
1960–1961 Texas John Slaughter[30] Viola Eight episodes (from mid-season 2 and all of 3)
1960–1966 The Andy Griffith Show[15][28] Thelma Lou Twenty-six episodes
1960 National Velvet[31] Barbara Howard "Mi's Girl"
1963 The Farmer's Daughter[15] Sylvia "The Speechmaker: Part 2"
1965 The Smothers Brothers Show[15] Vera "Here Comes the Bridegroom"
1967–1970 My Three Sons[15] Janet/Janice; Lois Seven episodes
1966–1968 Family Affair[15][28] Miss Lee Four episodes
1969 The Mod Squad[15] Mrs. Hill "The Healer"
1974 Little House on the Prairie[15][28] Bridget "If I Should Wake Before I Die"
1978 Barnaby Jones[15] Mrs. Russell "Blind Jeopardy"
1986 Matlock[15][28] Sarah Four episodes



  1. ^ Oby, Jenny (2017). Lakewood Theatre. Arcadia Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 9781467125949. Retrieved October 24, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Haring, Bruce (October 17, 2021). "Deadline: Betty Lynn Dies: Thelma Lou, Barney Fife's Girlfriend On 'The Andy Griffith Show, Was 95". Deadline Hollywood – via Yahoo!.
  3. ^ Robinson, Dale; Fernandes, David (1996). The Definitive Andy Griffith Show Reference: Episode-by-Episode, With Cast and Production Biographies and a Guide to Collectibles. McFarland. p. 267. ISBN 0-7864-0136-2.
  4. ^ a b c "Betty Lynn, Thelma Lou on 'The Andy Griffith Show,' has died". Associated Press. October 17, 2021. Retrieved October 18, 2021.
  5. ^ "Fifteenth Census of the United States: 1930 Population Schedule", image of original 1930 enumeration page citing George A. Dailey in household of John J. Daily, Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri; Enumeration District 81, sheet 18B, line 53, family 278, U.S. Census Bureau, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Record accessed via FamilySearch, February 1, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Washburn, Mark (August 28, 2016). "The secret life of Mayberry's Thelma Lou". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on March 14, 2021. Retrieved October 18, 2021.
  7. ^ Robinson, Dale; Fernandes, David (1996). The Definitive Andy Griffith Show Reference: Episode-by-Episode, With Cast and Production Biographies and a Guide to Collectibles. McFarland. p. 267. ISBN 0-7864-0136-2.
  8. ^ "United States Census, 1930," database with images, Elizabeth Lynn in household of George A. Lynn, Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri, United States; ED 100, sheet 9A, line 33, family 126, U.S. Census Bureau, NARA. Retrieved through FamilySearch, February 1, 2022.
  9. ^ "California Death Index, 1940-1997," George Andrew Lynn, 24 May 1959; Department of Public Health Services, Sacramento, California. Retrieved via FamilySearch database, February 4, 2022.
  10. ^ II, John Peters (October 17, 2021). "Betty Lynn, Mayberry's Thelma Lou, passes away". Mt. Airy News. Retrieved November 16, 2021.
  11. ^ "Betty Lynn Started Acting At Early Age". Biddeford-Saco Journal. Maine, Biddeford. April 14, 1952. p. 12. Retrieved October 25, 2017 – via Open access icon
  12. ^ "Betty Lynn". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Archived from the original on October 25, 2017. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Eury, Michael (Summer 2018). "Meet Thelma Lou: An Interview with Betty Lynn". RetroFan (1). TwoMorrows Publishing: 54–58.
  14. ^ Breed, Allen G. (September 28, 2007). "'Thelma Lou' moves to Mount Airy after L.A. break-ins". Archived from the original on February 13, 2012. Retrieved May 10, 2009.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w "Betty Lynn". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  16. ^ a b c d Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 300. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  17. ^ a b "Betty Lynn Obituary (1926–2021) Winston-Salem Journal". Retrieved November 16, 2021.
  18. ^ Gallagher, Pat (August 29, 2013). "Betty Lynn: Forever Thelma Lou". Huffington Post.
  19. ^ "Meet Thelma Lou". Andy Griffith Museum. September 13, 2017.
  20. ^ Sandomir, Richard (October 19, 2021). "Betty Lynn, Thelma Lou on 'The Andy Griffith Show,' Dies at 95". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  21. ^ "Ron Howard Tweet". Twitter. October 17, 2021. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  22. ^ "Marshfield, Missouri Cherry Blossom Fest". Retrieved May 10, 2009.
  23. ^ "Lt. Gov. Honors Lynn". Mount Airy News. August 30, 2016. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Betty Lynn". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  25. ^ a b c d e "Betty Lynn – Filmography". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  26. ^ Lentz, Robert J. (September 15, 2015). Lee Marvin: His Films and Career. McFarland. p. 188. ISBN 9781476604053.
  27. ^ Lentz 1997, p. 253.
  28. ^ a b c d e "Betty Lynn List of Movies and TV Shows". TV Guide. Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  29. ^ Lentz 1997, p. 396.
  30. ^ Smith, Dave (1998). Disney A to Z: The Updated Official Encyclopedia. Hyperion. p. 548. ISBN 9780786863914.
  31. ^ TV Guide. Vol. 9. Triangle Publications. 1961. p. 22. ISBN 9780786863914.