West Virginia University’s funniest alumnus has died.

Don Knotts, who kept generations of Americans in stitches as the clumsy-but-likeable Deputy Barney Fife onThe Andy Griffith Show,died Friday (Feb. 24) of pulmonary and respiratory problems at a Los Angeles hospital. He was 81.

A Morgantown native, Knotts graduated from WVU in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies before embarking on a career in comedy that would span six decades.

Don Knotts was a pioneer in the modern age of comedy, WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. said.He will always be remembered as one of America’s funniest comedians. He never lost his love for Morgantown and will be truly missed by not only his many friends here, but millions of fans across America.

Stephen L. Douglas, president and chief executive officer of the WVU Alumni Association, described Knotts as one of the University’s”most beloved alumni.”

He enjoyed a long, successful careerone that continues to live on today,”Douglas said.”He was a proud West Virginian and alumnus, and he will certainly be missed.

Knotts won five Emmys as Sheriff Andy Taylor’s bumbling deputy onThe Andy Griffith Show,which ran from 1960-68 and has spawned generations of fans through reruns.

He attracted a new legion of TV fans as would-be swinger landlord Ralph Furley onThree’s Companyin the late 1970s and early 1980s. He also starred in several films, includingThe Incredible Mr. Limpet,The Ghost and Mr. ChickenandThe Apple Dumpling Gang.

Knotts’last major roles were as a TV repairman in 1998’sPleasantvilleand as the voice of Mayor Turkey Lurkey in last year’s animated filmChicken Little.

Local and state officials honored Knotts in 1998 by renaming South University Avenue in Morgantown after him. In August, the actor’s hometown friends honored him with a Star of Fame at the Monongalia Arts Center, but Knotts was unable to attend the unveiling because of poor health.

A local memorial service is planned at a later date.