Don Knotts: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
A look into the life of Morgantown's own comedic genius
The Early Life of Don Knotts
Before he was ‘Don Knotts’—Emmy Award-winning actor and TV personality— he was Jesse Donald Knotts, born on July 21, 1924 in Morgantown, WV. Knotts grew up in the heart of Mountaineer Country, living in the boarding home owned and operated by his mother, and later attending Morgantown High School. Knotts would then go on to enlist in the Army and serve during World World II.
Returning to Morgantown after the war, Don Knotts would go on to earn his Bachelor’s degree in Education from West Virginia University in 1948. Knotts also earned a Minor in Speech and maintained a very active campus life as a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity and Alpha Psi Omega Honor Society. The history of Don Knotts is felt everywhere throughout Morgantown; from Don Knotts Boulevard, named in 1998, to the Don Knotts Statue, unveiled on High Street in 2016 after a 10-year fundraising effort by the town.
The Don Knotts Statue
There are two things that help non-West Virginian’s understand the importance of Morgantown; one is West Virginia University, and the other is Don Knotts. So after the announcement of Don Knott’s death in 2006, the community of Morgantown began a fundraising effort to erect a statue of Don Knotts outside the front entrance of the Metropolitan Theatre in the heart of downtown. This status was designed by local artist Jamie Lester, also a West Virginia native, and was unveiled in 2016. It is a permanent art installment and an official stop in the Morgantown Public Art Guide.
Some of Don Knott’s Notable Acting Roles Include:
- No Time for Sergeants – 1958
- Barney Fife – The Andy Griffith Show – 1960s
- The Incredible Mr. Limpet – 1964
- The Ghost and Mr. Chicken – 1966
- The Reluctant Astronaut – 1967
- The Shakiest Gun in the West – 1968
- The Love God? – 1969
- How to Frame A Figg – 1971
- The Apple Dumpling Gang – 1975
- Three’s Company – Started 1977
- The Private Eyes – 1980
- Pleasantville – 1998
Frequently Asked Questions:
What was Don Knotts net worth?
At the time of his death, Don Knotts’s net worth was estimated to have been more than $20 Million.
Why did Don Knotts Leave the Andy Griffith Show?
Don Knotts was convinced that Andy would not let the Andy Griffith show continue on past five seasons. To prepare for this, Knotts began looking into a career in feature films, starting with “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.” When the show continued on for three more seasons, Knotts decided not to rejoin the Mayberry cast.
What was Don Knott’s Cause of Death?
Don Knotts developed lung cancer in November of 2005 and later died from respiratory complications related to pneumonia.
How Did Don Knotts Become Famous?
While in high school, Don Knotts picked up ventriloquism and began practicing as a comedian. He continued his acts during his time in the Army, touring the Western Pacific Islands with a group called “Stars and Gripes.” After the war, Don Knotts attended WVU, performing stand-up comedy at local clubs and appearing as a guest ‘character’ on a radio Western called “Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders.”
Don Knott’s break into fame is credited to two performances: his appearance on the soap opera “Search for Tomorrow” between 1953 and 1955, and his role on Steve Allen’s Variety show in 1956.
What were Don Knotts Last Words?
Always a performer, Don Knotts is said to have been cracking jokes and telling stories, even on his death bed. While his final words were not recorded, Knott’s Daughter, Karen Knotts, recalls having to leave the room to laugh out loud.
Long-time friend and co-star Andy Griffith was also at Knott’s bedside during his final moments. Griffith gave Knotts words of encouragement, saying “Jess (Don’s real name), breathe. You’ve gotta make this, you’ve gotta pull through. Breathe.” Griffith believes that his words got through to his friend as Knott’s shoulders began to move more purposefully.
Where is Don Knotts Buried?
Don Knotts is buried at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles, CA.
On his grave is a plaque that features depictions of Knotts in a few of his more famous roles. The bottom of this plaque reads, “he saw the poignancy in people’s pride and pain and turned it into something hilarious and endearing.”