Jesse Donald "Don" Knotts (July 21, 1924 – February 24, 2006) was an American comedic actor best known for his portrayal of Barney Fife on the 1960s television sitcom The Andy Griffith Show, a role which earned him five Emmy Awards. He also played landlord Ralph Furley on the 1970s television sitcom Three's Company.
Knotts was born in Morgantown, West Virginia, a son of William Jesse Knotts and his wife, the former Elsie L. Moore. Knotts's paternal ancestors had emigrated from England to America in the 17th century, originally settling in Queen Anne's County, Maryland. Knotts's father was a farmer, but suffered a nervous breakdown and lost his land. Afflicted with both schizophrenia and alcoholism, he died when Knotts was 13 years old. Knotts and his three brothers were then raised by their mother, who ran a boarding house in Morgantown. Knott's mother Elsie L. Moore-Knotts died in 1969, at age 84. Son William Earl Knotts (1910-1941) preceded her in death in 1941, at age 31. They are buried in the family plot at Beverly Hills Memorial Park, in Morgantown, West Virginia. Knotts is a sixth cousin of Ron Howard, a co-star on the Andy Griffith Show. An urban legend claims that Knotts served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, serving as a drill instructor at Parris Island. In reality, Knotts enlisted in the United States Army after graduating from Morgantown High School and spent most of his service entertaining troops.
Knotts began his career performing in many venues, including a ventriloquist act with a dummy named Danny "Hooch" Matador. In a TV Guide interview in the 1970s, Knotts spoke about how, when he was in the Army, he was getting tired of playing straight man for a hunk of wood. One night, while aboard a troop ship where he was entertaining, he decided to end the partnership with his dummy by tossing "Danny" overboard. From that day forward, he worked as a single.