Clarence Gilyard Jr., known for starring in “Walker, Texas Ranger” and for supporting roles in several box office hits, has died. He was 66.
Gilyard died after a battle with a “long illness,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, adding that no further details are currently known about his death.
His death was confirmed in a statement that was published late Monday by the University of Northern Las Vegas’ College of Fine Arts, where he had worked as a film and theater professor in recent years.
“Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him,” UNLV film chair Heather Addison said. “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!”
UNLV Dean Nancy J. Uscher of Gilyard said, “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.”
“His generosity of spirit was boundless – he was always ready to contribute to projects and performances however possible,” Uscher continued. “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.”
Gilyard had put his acting career on hold for a period of time to teach at UNLV. “My manager-agent is not happy that I’m not working, but the university is just too much fun. And once you start a semester and meet those students, it’s like doing a TV series,” Gilyard said in 2010. “You’re plugged into them. How can you leave them once you see in their eyes that they’re depending on you? They have aspirations for their own growth for those 15 weeks.”
Born on Christmas Eve in 1955, Gilyard grew up a military brat and moved throughout the U.S. and even spent a year at the Air Force Academy as a cadet when he was older.
Gilyard made his first major appearance as Lieutenant Marcus “Sundown” Williams in “Top Gun” in the 1980s and later as the computer savvy terrorist Theo in “Die Hard.”
In the late 1980s, he starred as Conrad McMasters on “Matlock,” and later departed to play Jimmy Trivette on Chuck Norris’ hit crime show “Walker, Texas Ranger,” where he appeared in 196 episodes of the show which spanned nearly a decade.
Gilyard was a devout Christian and played in several Christian movies, including, “A Matter of Faith,” “Christmas on the Coast,” “The Perfect Race,” and “Left Behind: The Movie.”
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