OU Alumnus Richard Linke “The Man Who Made Mayberry” Dies at 98

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Richard (Dick) O. Linke, 98, died on June 15, 2016 in his Hawaii home. A graduate of Ohio University (BSJ 1941), he had been one of its most devoted alumni, as well as its most successful and widely known entertainment managers. Andy Griffith, Jim Nabors, Jerry VanDyke, Ken Berry and Frankie Avalon were among Linke’s many clients. He was known as “the man who made Mayberry.”

From his hometown of Summit, NJ, Linke matriculated to Ohio University in the fall of 1937 because of the reputation of its School of Journalism. He had a gift for words and wanted to use them to make a career. He made lifelong friends among the faculty, staff and students whom he met both in class and in extracurricular activities. He never hesitated to say that the decision to enroll at Ohio University was one of the best steps he had made in his entire life.

Linke’s long successful career has been the subject of full-treatment articles in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, TV Week, Newsweek and TV Guide, as well as many other media for shorter notices as his career progressed.

As early as his high school days, Linke knew that he wanted to be involved in the entertainment business. It was natural, then, for him to return to the New York City area in 1941, after he had earned his BSJ with an emphasis in public relations. He knew that he needed the experience of writing under pressure, so he joined the NYC Associated Press Bureau, where he also learned how to make contacts, a talent that would serve him well. After two years at AP, he joined a respected public relations firm, Earle Ferris & Co., where he handled publicity for 40 radio stations. Soon he moved up the ladder to a larger firm (Newell-Emmett Co.), where one of his accounts was “The Chesterfield Supper Club,” starring Perry Como, a new singer at the time.

By 1947, he wanted to get into the growing record business, so he joined Capitol Records, where he worked with such artists as Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Peggy Lee and band leader Stan Kenton.

A 1949 business decline forced Linke to “cut back,” so he looked up a fellow OHIO alumnus, band leader Sammy Kaye, for whom he had success until he opened his own agency, Richard O. Linke Publicity. His first victory in this move involved handling the record-sale publicity of two young singers, Doris Day and Gordon MacRae. This success led to a call from Capitol Records offering him the position of national promotion manager.

In 1953, while at Capitol, Linke heard about a young North Carolina high school music teacher who had cut a record, “What It Was Was Football,” for a regional record company. Linke met Andy Griffith, bought the record rights for $10,000, and signed Griffith with Capitol. The record became a national hit for Griffith and Capitol. Linke began personally managing Griffith, getting him exposure in New York City’s night clubs and television appearances, such as “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

After Linke accepted a new position as national single sales manager of Columbia Records, he became personal friends with singers such as Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, and Jerry Vale.  Within the last year, Bennett visited Linke at his Hawaii home and presented him with a gift of one of his paintings in acknowledgment of their long friendship.

In 1957, Linke decided to leave Columbia so he could devote more time to managing Griffith and to establish his own company, Richard O. Linke and Associates. In 1959 TV producer Sheldon Leonard called Linke to propose a new TV show starring Griffith as a small-town sheriff. Griffith and Linke and their families moved to Hollywood to begin producing the new series, “The Andy Griffith Show,” which began its decade-long run in 1960 and is still available today in reruns. As the show became more and more popular, Linke built his enterprise of clients, including Jim Nabors, Ken Berry, Forrest Tucker, Larry Hovis, Maggie Peterson, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Vinton and others. His new technique was to get each of these clients into substantial roles within his established series, then launch them into their own starring roles elsewhere. Throughout the 1960s and early ’70s, Linke was arguably the hottest personal manager in Hollywood, as well as part-owner of four television shows of that era: “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Gomer Pyle,” “Mayberry RFD” and “The Jim Nabors Hour.”

After semi-retiring from the business, Linke and his wife Bettina moved to Athens, Ohio, where he became an adjunct professor with the Ohio University School of Journalism. He taught an upper-level course, “Entertainment Public Relations,” and also visited other journalism classes for specialized discussions about press coverage of the entertainment industry. While they were in Athens, Bettina finished her BS degree in 1995, thus joining Dick’s daughter Nanci, who had earned an OHIO BFA degree in 1971. Linke became a trustee of the Ohio University Foundation and established the Richard O. Linke Scholarship for the J-School, now known as the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. This scholarship remains the largest award given annually by the faculty of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

Linke was recognized by Ohio University several times, being awarded the Medal of Merit Award in 1959 and the Alumnus of the Year Award in 1967 (the first such award given by Ohio University). He served on the Alumni Board 1968-70 and on the University Foundation Board 1993-96. He was also a member of the Thomas Ewing Society, which recognizes major donors.
Until the day of his death, Linke kept in touch with entertainment friends and his beloved School of Journalism from his home on the Big Island of Hawaii. His closest Athens friend, with whom he talked frequently by phone, was Jack Ellis, 17 Mulligan Road.  Linke had met Ellis (also an Ohio University alumnus) when both were living in California, and he recommended to Vernon Alden, then president of their university, that he “take a look at this young man” to fill the position of executive director of the Alumni Association. Alden’s choice brought Ellis back to Athens, and he retired 30 years later as vice president for development.

Details regarding a memorial service at Ohio University in honor of Linke’s loyalty and many accomplishments will be provided at a later date at He was preceded in death by his father, Paul A. Linke (born in Germany), and mother, Rose Oppenaur (born in Vienna); brother Paul A. Linke, and sister Arline Linke Turner. His wife, Bettina Brenna Linke, of Holualoa, Hawaii, survives him.  He is also survived by five children: Paul Linke, Venice, Calif.; Nanci Linke Ellis, Santa Monica, Calif.; Katharine Elizabeth Linke, North Hollywood, Calif.; Richard Oscar Linke Jr., Haleiwa, Hawaii; and Bettina Marie Linke McCullough, Holualoa, Hawaii; and 10 grandchildren. Those wishing to memorialize Linke are welcome to contribute to the Richard O. Linke Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Ohio University Foundation, Athens, OH 45701.