Clarence Gilyard Jr., an actor best known for his starring role in Walker, Texas Ranger, has died at 66.
He made his film debut with Top Gun in 1986, then scored a supporting role as computer hacker Theo in 1988’s Die Hard. The veteran film and TV actor later appeared as a series regular on Matlock for four seasons before getting his big break with Walker, Texas Ranger, starring in all eight seasons of the hit show.
“I’ve been blessed. I’ve worked with Michael Mann, John Avildsen, Tony Scott,” Gilyard told The Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2017. “There are actors who are better looking, more talented, but at that time, the directors who were after me, they said, ‘This kid needs to be in my movie.’”
“You have to be flexible and address the reality of the business—but you can realize your dreams in this business,” he said.
Gilyard was born in Moses Lake, Washington, and he and his family moved several times to different air bases across the country before settling in California. The Matlock actor had been married to his wife Elena since 2001.
Gilyard got his bachelor’s degree in acting from California State University, Long Beach and California State University, Dominguez Hills. He spent his later years as an associate professor in University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ College of Fine Arts, where he has taught since 2006.
The university confirmed his death in a statement, calling him 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!” UNLV film chair Heather Addison said.
“His students were deeply inspired by him, as were all who knew him,” UNLV Dean Nancy J Uscher said in a statement. “He had many extraordinary talents and was extremely well-known in the university through his dedication to teaching and his professional accomplishments.”
Gilyard’s cause of death hasn’t been made public at this time.
— 🏁 T.C. Fontaine 🏁 (@TCFontaine) November 29, 2022
Actor Clarence Gilyard solidified his place in film history as Theo in DIE HARD (which he revived in a ‘21 Super Bowl ad) & in TV as Conrad McMasters in MATLOCK. But he also made an innumerable impact in real life as a film studies professor at UNLV. May he Rest In Peace. #RIP pic.twitter.com/DT595TAlbz
— Courtney Howard (@Lulamaybelle) November 29, 2022