Jesse Donald "Don" Knotts 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' 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 thirteen years old. Knotts and his three brothers were then raised by their mother, who ran a boarding house in Morgantown. Knotts is a sixth cousin of Ron Howard, a co-actor 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.
After performing in many venues, Knotts got his first major break on television in the soap opera Search for Tomorrow where he appeared from 1953 to 1955. He came to fame in 1956 on Steve Allen's variety show, as part of Allen's repertory company, most notably in Allen's mock "Man in the Street" interviews, always as an extremely nervous man. The laughs grew when Knotts stated his occupation?always one that wouldn?t be appropriate for such a shaky person, such as a surgeon or explosives expert.