Clarence Gilyard Jr., an actor best known for starring in “Walker, Texas Ranger” and his supporting performance in “Die Hard,” has died. He was 66 years old.
No further details about his death are available at this time.
Gilyard’s death was confirmed through a statement by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gilyard had been working as a film and theatre professor at UNLV College of Fine Arts.
“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!”
An accomplished film, television and theatre actor, Gilyard made a lasting impression in the 1980s after a series of guest star TV appearances, making his film debut as Sundown in “Top Gun” and playing the terrorist computer whiz Theo in “Die Hard” with a gleeful menace. In 1989, he scored a regular gig on primetime television with “Matlock,” playing Conrad McMasters, a P.I. for Andy Griffith’s lead criminal defense attorney.
Gilyard appeared on 85 episodes of “Matlock” before departing the series in 1993 for an even bigger role: Jimmy Trivette, the right-hand man to Chuck Norris’ tough sergeant on CBS’ Western crime series “Walker, Texas Ranger.” He appeared in all 196 episodes of the series’ eight seasons. After the finale in 2001, Gilyard continued to act in various films and TV shows.
Born Dec. 24, 1955 in Moses Lake, Wash., Gilyard grew up a military brat, moving across air bases throughout the U.S. during his adolescence before his family settled in California. After spending a year at the Air Force Academy as a cadet, Gilyard attended Sterling College and, later, California State University, Long Beach and California State University, Dominguez Hills, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in acting.
Gilyard returned to academia later in life, joining the department of theatre at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as an associate professor in 2006. Gilyard also worked as a producer and director, helming an episode of “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
Gilyard was previously married to Catherine Dutko. He married Elena Gilyard in 2001.