Clarence Gilyard, a film and television actor known for his roles in “Die Hard,” “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “Top Gun,” has died. He was 66 years old.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas confirmed Gilyard’s death in a statement shared on Instagram on Monday. The performer, director and producer was also a professor of film and theater who taught acting for stage and screen at UNLV. No cause of death was given.
“It is with deep sadness that I share this news,” said Nancy Uscher, dean of UNLV’s college of fine arts. “His students were deeply inspired by him, as were all who knew him. He had many extraordinary talents and was widely known in the university for his dedication to teaching and his professional achievements.
“He had a national and international following through his celebrated work in theatre, film and television. 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, the world.”
After appearing in various films and TV shows in the early 1980s, Gilyard made his big screen debut as Naval Flight Officer Marcus “Sundown” Williams in the original “Top Gun” (1986). He later played the hacker Theo in the action classic Die Hard (1988), before playing private investigator Conrad McMasters in the hit series Matlock (1989-1993) and on-screen partner of Chuck Norris , James “Jimmy” Trivette. in the popular crime series “Walker, Texas Ranger” (1993-2001).
Gilyard earned a BA in Theater Arts from Cal State Dominguez Hills as well as an MA in Theater Performance from Southern Methodist University before teaching acting at UNLV.
“Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength to all those around him at UNLV,” said UNLV Film Chair Heather Addison. “Whenever I asked him how he was, he would happily 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 and miss you so much, Professor G!”
“It may surprise some to know that Clarence valued his appointment as a university professor as much, perhaps more, than his illustrious career as a TV star,” said UNLV theater professor Nate Bynum. “It was a major goal for him. He loved…the students he taught in his classroom. Gone too soon.”