Betty Lynn, Barney Fife’s Girlfriend on ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ Dies at 95

Betty Lynn in Behind the High Wall
Everett Collection

Veteran actress Betty Lynn, best known for playing Deputy Barney Fife’s girlfriend Thelma Lou on The Andy Griffith Show, has passed away. She was 95.

Lynn’s death was confirmed by the Andy Griffith Museum, who stated that she passed away on Saturday in Culver City, California, after a brief illness. “It is with an extremely heavy heart that we announce the passing of Betty Lynn,” read the museum’s Facebook page. “Thank you to all for your prayers, cards and love. Betty will be dearly missed by all of us. We love you Betty.”

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, on August 29, 1926, Lynn began her journey into show business from an early age, studying dance at age 5 with renowned dancer Helen Burwell at the Kansas City Conservatory. By 14, she was already acting and singing at local clubs, as well as performing commercial spots for radio shows.

Once she turned 18, Lynn began performing at USO Camp Shows both in the United States and overseas. She was later honored for her service “above and beyond the call of duty” with a special commendation from the U.S. War Department. Following the war, Lynn returned to New York City, quickly picking up work on Broadway and beyond.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, she appeared in many films, including Sitting Pretty (1948), June Bride (1948), Cheaper by the Dozen (1950), Payment on Demand (1951), Meet Me In Las Vegas (1956), and Gun for a Coward (1957). She later transitioned into television, featuring in shows such as Lawman, Bronco, and Sugarfoot before landing recurring roles in Texas John Slaughter, and The Andy Griffith Show.

Lynn appeared in 26 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show over five years from 1961 to 1966. She reprised the role of Thelma Lou in the 1986 reunion TV movie Return to Mayberry, in which her character finally married Barney. She also reunited with Griffith as his secretary on a handful of NBC’s Matlock episodes in that same year.