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Local Column

Schrader: Barney Fife comes to life in DeKalb County

DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott poses with his friend David Browning, who portrays the Don Knotts’ character Deputy Barney Fife from the old "The Andy Griffith Show" TV series. Browning’s mannerisms, voice  and quips are so realistic you think you are meeting the TV character in person.
DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott poses with his friend David Browning, who portrays the Don Knotts’ character Deputy Barney Fife from the old "The Andy Griffith Show" TV series. Browning’s mannerisms, voice and quips are so realistic you think you are meeting the TV character in person.

Those who remember TV’s “The Andy Griffith Show” and Mayberry would have done a double take last Thursday when a spitting image of the late Don Knotts came to town in his Mayberry sheriff’s deputy outfit.

DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott collects memorabilia from the 1960 to ’68 TV series and has made friends with a professional entertainer who portrays Barney Fife (who was played by Knotts). The impersonator, David Browning, hails from Bristol, Virginia, not far from the mythical Mayberry, North Carolina, where the show was set.

A few times Scott has brought Browning here to give the keynote speech to the graduating class of the civilian sheriff’s academy, offering a mixture of humor and a message on how to live life. The academy has about 30 residents each year who complete a 10-week course on how local law enforcement works.

Last week, Browning attended a breakfast for Scott campaign supporters before his address to the class. In addition to reminiscing about the TV series and its characters, Browning offered six pointers in an acrostic that spelled out “deputy”:

• Decide to make a difference.

• Energize people around you.

• Prove you are worthy of others’ friendship.

• Use all of your talents.

• Take your iPhone and put it away, then talk to each other.

• Yesterday is gone, but today is the day we can make great.

Although the early ‘60s series may have seemed corny, Browning brings back fond memories of a small town down South that had a friendly and caring sheriff, a goofy deputy and lots of other characters.

Scott told his supporters at the breakfast he had campaign signs for them in back to take home, despite having three more years remaining in his ninth full four-year term as sheriff.

When I asked him, he demurred on running again, saying it was too early to decide. But when he told me the record for a sheriff in office in Illinois is 40 years, I realized he has already served 34 years in that capacity and at the end of his term it would be
37 years.

So another four years in office would give him the state record of 41 years.

As for Browning, he has been a warmup act for Knotts, who died in 2006, and made appearances across the country in his deputy role. Browning likes to sign off with a familiar Barney Fife phrase: “Ten-four good buddy.”

• The columnist can be reached via email at barry815@sbcglobal.net or at P.O. Box 851. His past columns can be found on his website at www.dekalbcountylife.com.

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