Betty Lynn

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Betty Lynn
B&W image of smiling actor sitting cross-legged on cushion
Betty Lynn c. 1960
Liz Ann Theresa Lynn

(1926-08-29) August 29, 1926 (age 94)
Other namesBetty Ann Lynn
Years active1948–2006
Known forPortraying Thelma Lou on The Andy Griffith Show

Elizabeth Ann Theresa Lynn[1] (born August 29, 1926) is an American retired actress. She is best known for her role as 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).

Early life[edit]

Betty Lynn was born in Kansas City, Missouri.[2] Her mother, Elizabeth Ann Lynn,[3] was "an accomplished mezzo-soprano" who taught Betty to sing and started her in the Kansas City Conservatory of Music when she was 5 years old.[4]

Lynn had little personal contact with her father, who once reportedly threatened to shoot her mother in the abdomen when she was pregnant. After Lynn's birth, her mother once took shelter in a locked closet with the baby as her husband threatened the two. They divorced when Lynn was 5 years old. Lynn's grandfather, George Andrew Lynn, a railroad engineer, took on the role of father as she grew up.[4]

USO tour[edit]

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. She realized the gravity of the situation when a Marine gave her a pistol saying, "You might need this."[4]

Her activities on the tour included visiting patients in hospitals and singing requests from a repertoire of 725 songs. 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."[4]

Acting career[edit]

Betty Lynn began her acting career in radio as a member of the cast on a daytime drama on a station in Kansas City.[5]

On Broadway, she appeared in Walk with Music (1940), Oklahoma! (1943),[6] and Park Avenue (1946).[7] She was discovered in a Broadway production by Darryl F. Zanuck and signed to 20th Century Fox.[8] 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."[4]

Lynn made her film debut in the 1948 film Sitting Pretty, which won a Photoplay Gold Medal.[7] 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).[9]

Lynn replaced Patricia Kirkland in the role of Betty Blake in the CBS comedy, The Egg and I (1951-1952),[10] and she played Pearl in the ABC comedy Love That Jill (1958).[10]:631 During this time she became neighbor to an infant Mark Evanier, who she has said became a close friend.[7]

She was Viola Slaughter in the ABC Western Texas John Slaughter (1958–62).[10]:1064 In the 1953–54 television season, Lynn was cast as June Wallace,[10]:1171 the sister-in-law of the Ray Bolger character in the ABC sitcom Where's Raymond? Allyn Joslyn played her husband, Jonathan Wallace. Lynn and Joslyn left the series in its second season when it was renamed The Ray Bolger Show.[11][9]

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. Despite playing the role for five years (1961–66), 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).[7] 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."[7] Following the end of The Andy Griffith Show, Lynn continued appearing in various television and film roles.

In 1986, she reprised the role of Thelma Lou in the reunion television movie Return to Mayberry, in which Thelma Lou and Barney Fife are finally married. 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.[8] Lynn herself has commented, "The longer I live here, the more I see things [Griffith] took from his hometown."[7]

Personal life[edit]

Betty Lynn and Ian Oliver Martin in 2011
Giovanna and Randy Rayburn with Betty Lynn (center), Mount Airy, North Carolina

In 1950, Lynn bought a house in Los Angeles, with her mother and grandparents moving in. She thus took on the off-screen roles of breadwinner and caretaker.

Betty Lynn has never married, although she has said she was once engaged.[12] She makes monthly appearances at the Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy, North Carolina, to sign autographs and meet with her fans.[13]

As of July 2019, Betty Lynn resides in an assisted-living facility in Mount Airy. Every third Friday of the month, she makes a personal appearance in the town to speak to fans.[14]


In 2007, Lynn was inducted into the Missouri Walk of Fame, located in Marshfield, Missouri.[15]

On August 30, 2016, then-North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory granted and North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest presented Lynn with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honor in North Carolina.[16]


Year Title Role Notes
1948 Apartment for Peggy Wife Credited as Betty Ann Lynn
Sitting Pretty Ginger Credited as Betty Ann Lynn
June Bride Barbara Brinker
1949 Mother Is a Freshman Susan Abbott
1949 Father Was a Fullback Constance "Connie" Cooper
1950 Cheaper by the Dozen Deborah Lancaster
1951 Payment on Demand Martha Ramsey
1951 Take Care of My Little Girl Marge Colby
1956 Meet Me in Las Vegas Young Bride Alternative title: Viva Las Vegas!
1959 Louisiana Hussy Lili Guillot
1959 The Hangman Hotel Cafe Waitress
Year Title Role Notes
1958 M Squad Susan Baines Episode: "The Trap"
1958 Lawman Edna Phillips Episode: "The Oath"
1958 Wagon Train Molly Richardson Episode: "The Dick Richardson Story"
1958 Bronco Molly Bailey Episode: "Baron of Broken Lace"
1959 Tales of Wells Fargo Mary Francis Episode: "The Bounty Hunter"
1959 Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer Mona Episode: "Pen Pals"
1959 Sugarfoot Sarah Sears Episode "The Royal Raiders"
1959 Sugarfoot Alice Fenton Episode "The Twister"
1960-1961 Texas John Slaughter Viola 8 Episodes Mid Season 2 and all of 3
1960–1966 The Andy Griffith Show Thelma Lou 26 episodes
1960 National Velvet Barbara Howard Episode: "Mi's Girl"
1963 The Farmer's Daughter Sylvia Episode: "The Speechmaker: Part 2"
1965 The Smothers Brothers Show Vera Episode: "Here Comes the Bridegroom"
1967–1970 My Three Sons Janet/Janice; Lois Seven episodes
1966–1968 Family Affair Miss Lee Four episodes
1969 The Mod Squad Mrs. Hill Episode: "The Healer"
1974 Little House on the Prairie Bridget Episode: "If I Should Wake Before I Die"
1978 Barnaby Jones Mrs. Russell Episode: "Blind Jeopardy"
1986 Matlock Sarah Four episodes


  1. ^ Oby, Jenny (2017). Lakewood Theatre. Arcadia Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 9781467125949. Retrieved October 24, 2017.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Collura, Joe (September 2017). "Betty Lynn: Barney's Thelma Lou". Classic Images (507): 68–71.
  4. ^ a b c d e Washburn, Mark (August 28, 2016). "The secret life of Mayberry's Thelma Lou". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on October 24, 2017. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  5. ^ "Betty Lynn Started Acting At Early Age". Biddeford-Saco Journal. Maine, Biddeford. April 14, 1952. p. 12. Retrieved October 25, 2017 – via open access
  6. ^ "Betty Lynn". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Archived from the original on October 25, 2017. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Eury, Michael (Summer 2018). "Meet Thelma Lou: An Interview with Betty Lynn". RetroFan. TwoMorrows Publishing (1): 54–58.
  8. ^ a b Breed, Allen G. (2007-09-28). "'Thelma Lou' moves to Mount Airy after L.A. break-ins". Archived from the original on 2012-02-13. Retrieved 2009-05-10.
  9. ^ a b Betty Lynn at IMDb
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Where's Raymond?/The Ray Bolger Show". Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved March 14, 2011.
  12. ^ "Actress Who Played Thelma Lou Reminisces About Andy Griffith". Huffington Post. August 29, 2013.
  13. ^ "Meet Thelma Lou". Andy Griffith Museum. September 13, 2017.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Marshfield, Missouri Cherry Blossom Fest". Retrieved 2009-05-10.
  16. ^ "Lt. Gov. Honors Lynn". Mount Airy News. Retrieved February 27, 2017.

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