Clarence Gilyard Jr death: ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’, ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Top Gun’ actor died at 66

Clarence Gilyard Jr made film debut as Sundown in ‘Top Gun’ and playing terrorist computer wiz Theo with in ‘Die Hard’.

‘Die Hard’ actor Clarence Gilyard Jr has died. Also best known for his roles in ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ and ‘Top Gun’, the actor was 66 years old. However, circumstances surrounding his death are still not available at this time.

Entertainment website Variety reported that his death was confirmed through a statement by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Affectionately known as ‘Professor G’ by his peers and students, Gilyard had been working as a film and theatre professor at UNLV College of Fine Arts.

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UNLV film chair Heather Addison said: “Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him. 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!”

A film, television, and theatre actor Gilyard, created a lasting impression in the 1980s after a succession of guest star TV appearances, making his film debut as Sundown in ‘Top Gun’ and playing terrorist computer wiz Theo in ‘Die Hard’. He landed a regular role on primetime television with ‘Matlock’ in 1989, as Conrad McMasters, a private investigator for Andy Griffith’s lead criminal defence attorney.

He appeared in 85 episodes of ‘Matlock’ before leaving the show in 1993 to play Jimmy Trivette, Chuck Norris’ tough sergeant on CBS’ Western crime series ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’. He appeared in all 196 episodes of the eight-season series. Gilyard continued to appear in films and TV shows when the series ended in 2001.

Gilyard was born on December 24, 1955, in Moses Lake, Washington, and grew up as a military brat, travelling among air bases throughout the US before his family settled in California. Gilyard attended Sterling College and, later, California State University, Long Beach and California State University, Dominguez Hills, where he got a bachelor’s degree in acting after a year as a cadet at the Air Force Academy.

He returned to academia later in life, becoming an associate professor in the department of theatre at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2006. Gilyard was also a producer and director, having directed one episode of ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’. Gilyard was previously married to Catherine Dutko before remarrying in 2001 to Elena Gilyard. He is also survived by his six children.