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Ron Glass, Star of 'Barney Miller' and 'Firefly,' Dead at 71

Any avid TV watcher of the last 35 years or so is likely familiar with Ron Glass' face, often an oasis of calm in a sea of dramatic chaos.
Image: Ron Glass in 2005
Ron Glass, who played Shepherd Book, at the premiere of the movie 'Serenity' in Los Angeles in September 2005. Glass came to fame as Det. Ron Harris in the late 1970s sitcom 'Barney Miller.'Jim Smeal/BEI/BEI/Shutterstock / Shutterstock

Veteran television and film actor Ron Glass died Saturday of respiratory failure at age 71, his agent told NBC News.

"Ron was a private, gentle and caring man," said Jeffrey Leavitt, Glass' agent. "He was an absolute delight to watch on screen. Words cannot adequately express my sorrow."

Any avid TV watcher of the last 35 years or so is likely familiar with Glass' face. He is perhaps best known for his Emmy-nominated role as NYPD Det. Ron Harris on the classic cop sitcom "Barney Miller," which aired from 1975 to 1982 on ABC.

Glass is the second cast member from that critically acclaimed show to have passed away this year. The irascible and iconic Abe Vigoda, who played Det. Phil Fish for part of the sitcom's run, died in January at age 94.

For a younger generation of TV viewers, Glass was a standout as the deeply religious preacher Derrial Brook on the 2002 cult science fiction show "Firefly," which was eventually spun off into 2005 feature film — "Serenity" — co-starring Glass.

In real life, the Indiana-born actor was a devout Buddhist and an active member of the SGI-USA Friendship Center in Los Angeles.

Cast members from "Firefly" and "Serenity," including its fanboy favorite star, Nathan Fillion, offered their condolences on social media alongside Glass' longtime fans.

"He was a great individual and a very intelligent man," said John David Lutz, a professor of directing in the Theater Department at Evansville University in Indiana, from which Glass graduated in 1968.

"He really enjoyed his life as an actor, and he felt good about what he had accomplished and how he stood up for the things that he thought were valuable to him," Lutz told NBC station WFIE of Evansville

The NYPD detective's shield Glass wore on "Barney Miller" is on display at the Evansville African American Museum, according to Evansville police, who honored Glass on Facebook on Saturday as "Evansville's most famous detective."