A Mayberry State Of Mind
Jack Dodson / Howard Sprague
Jack Dodson, born May 16, 1931 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is best remembered for his character, Howard Sprague, on the Andy Griffith Show. As a young boy, Jack loved movies, especially movies starring Spencer Tracy. Jack also enjoyed camping and was a fan of boxing. During his teenage years, Jack became interested in acting, and in his senior year in high school, Jack won the Hearst National Oratorical Contest. This led to his acceptance at Carnegie Tech in his hometown of Pittsburgh (now known as Carnegie Mellon University). There he majored in drama and graduated in 1953. After graduation from Carnegie Tech, Jack went on to serve in the Army for 18 months. After his discharge from the Army, Jack moved to New York and found work in several off-Broadway plays, while also working as a night clerk at a local hotel. In 1959, Jack married television actress, Mary Weaver, whom he met while attending Carnegie Tech. The couple was married 35 years at the time of his death in 1994. While Jack was starring in the play Hughie on the West Coast, Andy Griffith noticed Jack’s work and commented that he liked what he saw. Jack’s agent later contacted Andy in pursuit of a role on the show. While at first, Andy had no recollection of his meeting Jack, his memory was refreshed and he later contacted Jack, offering him a guest appearance on The Andy Griffith Show as Ed Jenkins, an insurance salesman in the episode Lost and Found. Soon after, Jack was cast for the role of Howard Sprague, Mayberry’s County Clerk. Jack played Howard in the last 3 seasons, from 1966 to 1968, and continued his role in the spin-off Mayberry R.F.D. until 1971. After the cancellation of Mayberry R.F.D., Jack went on to work in the short-lived series All’s Fair (1976-1977), In the Beginning (1978), and the 1980s series Phyl and Mikhy. He also did several commercials and had recurring roles on several shows, most notably on Happy Days as Ralph Malph’s dad, an optometrist. In 1986, Jack re prised his role as Howard Sprague in the made-for-television movie, Return to Mayberry. Jack passed away from heart failure on September 16, 1994, at the age of 63, but he will always live on in our hearts as the mild-mannered, Howard Sprague.
Howard Sprague, somewhat of a mama’s boy and shy, but a mild-manner and intelligent man of courage and determination, was raised in Mayberry and went to school with Andy. Howard continued his schooling at the Bradbury Business College in Mt. Pilot. Upon his return to Mayberry, he worked as the County Clerk. Howard sang along side of Andy, Burt, and Wally in the Barbershop Quartet. He also enjoyed bowling and was a fill-in on the Mayberry Bowling League. Even with his unconventional bowling style (carefully measuring each step from the foul line), he was able to bowl a perfect game, something in which the odds of doing are 348,000:1, and also something that had never been done in the history of the county. Against his mother’s wishes, Howard became a member of the lodge, the Regal Order of the Golden Door to Good Fellowship. There he enjoyed drinking root beer and telling jokes to make people laugh. He even got a stint telling his jokes on the television show Colonel Tim’s Talent Time. Also in his spare time, Howard enjoys fishing. He once caught the oldest living fish in Tucker’s Lake, a silver carp nick-named Old Sam, but threw it back so others could have the enjoyment of trying to catch it. He also writes the garden column for the Mayberry Gazette and occasionally will cover the sports section, he volunteers for the Big Brother program, became a big brother and mentor to Tommy Parker, and is also on the school board. With his overbearing mother and his active life of hobbies, it's no surprise that Howard wouldn’t have a lot of time left over for dating, but he did get the occasional dates with nurse, Irene Fairchild, Tommy Parker’s sister Betty Parker, and Millie Hutchins, a new girl who just moved to town from Mt. Pilot and worked at Boysinger’s Bakery. After 3 months of dating Millie, Howard asked Millie to marry him and she agreed. They decided on a quick wedding in Millie’s hometown of Wheeling, West Virginia, but while on the train ride there, Howard and Millie both realized they were not ready for marriage. After Howard and Millie went their separate ways, Howard decided he was in need of a new life, so he packed his bags and bought a one-way ticket to the island of St. Benedict’s in the Caribbean. It didn’t take him long though to realize that he missed his friends and that Mayberry was his home and decided to return home to Mayberry, where he remained serving as County Clerk and a member of the Town Council.