Clarence Gilyard Jr., the action star known for his turns in Die Hard, Top Gun, and Walker, Texas Ranger, has died at 66. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ College of Fine Arts shared the news of his passing. With a 30-year acting career under his belt, the late Gilyard taught at the university as a film and theater professor.
“His students were deeply inspired by him, as were all who knew him. He had many extraordinary talents and was extremely well-known in the university through his dedication to teaching and his professional accomplishments,” says UNLV Dean Nancy J. Uscher, per Deadline. “His generosity of spirit was boundless—he was always ready to contribute to projects and performances however possible. We remember Clarence with joy and gratitude for all he contributed to the College of Fine Arts, the UNLV community, and, through his impressive personal achievements, to the world.”
“Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him at UNLV,” university film chair Heather Addison reflected. “Whenever we asked him how he was, he would cheerfully declare that he was ‘Blessed!’ But we are truly the ones who were blessed to be his colleagues and students for so many years. We love you and will miss you dearly, Professor G!”
Born in 1955, Gilyard Gilyard graduated from California State University with a BA in Theatre Arts. He would make his television debut in 1981 on an episode of Diff’rent Strokes. In 1986, he would jump to the big screen for the original Top Gun, where he played Marcus “Sundown” Williams.
Two years later, he would appear in Die Hard alongside Bruce Willis as the wisecracking computer hacker Theo. In 2020, Willis, Gilyard, and other Die Hard cast members reprised their role for an Advanced Auto Parts commercial.
In the world of television, Gilyard made his mark as private investigator Conrad McMasters in 85 episodes of the Andy Griffith legal drama Matlock. From 1993-2001, Gilyard appeared in Walker, Texas Ranger as Chuck Norris’ partner Ranger James Trivette in the television series and follow-up films.
Following his time on Walker, Texas Ranger, Gilyard pursued his MFA in Theatre Performance at Southern Methodist University, which allowed him to join the faculty at UNLV’s College of Fine Arts.
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