Clarence Gilyard, Jr.: "Walker," "Top Gun," "Die Hard" Star Dies

Herbie J Pilato
Clarence Gilyard, JrPhoto

According to Yahoo! News, and, actor and academic Clarence Gilyard Jr, known for portrayals in television shows like Walker, Texas Ranger, and Matlock, as well as big-screen movies such as Die Hard and Top Gun, has passed away. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas College of Fine Arts, where Gilyard was a film and theater professor, shared the news of his passing. No cause of death was given. He was 66.

It's a sad ending to an actor who brought enormous smiles to the world; his own and that of others.

Gilyard’s career spanned over three decades in film, television, and theater. His first movie role was as Sundown in the original Top Gun (1986), and he later made a lasting impression in 1989’s Die Hard as wise-cracking computer whiz baddie Theo.

As documented by Nancy Tartaglione on Yahoo!, Gilyard co-starred opposite TV legend Andy Griffith in the small-screen legal drama Matlock from 1989-1993, appearing in 85 episodes as private investigator Conrad McMasters. From 1993-2001, Gilyhyard performed with Chuck Norris as Jimmy Trevette in the CBS hit Walker, Texas Ranger.

Said Tartaglione: "Gilyard was born in 1955 in Moses Lake, Washington, and later attended high school in California. He earned a BA in Theatre Arts from California State University, moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career in the late 70s. After Walker, Texas Ranger, Gilyard took a sabbatical from acting and completed an MFA in Theatre Performance at Southern Methodist University, later joining the UNLV College of Fine Arts. In 2020, Gilyard reprised the role of Die Hard’s Theo in a super-sized commercial for Advanced Auto Parts celebrating its acquisition of the DieHard battery brand. The advert featured Bruce Willis’ legendary hero John McClane as well as cameos by De’voreaux White, who played limo driver Argyle, and Gilyard. At the time, Gilyard told Nevada Public Radio the experience had been 'surreal.'”

Said UNLV Dean Nancy J. Uscher of Gilyard, “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. 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.”

Added, UNLV film chair Heather Addison, “Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him at UNLV. 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!”

Several celebrity tributes were posted on Twitter.

Jason Smith wrote: "Oh my goodness. Clarence Gilyard Jr. Die Hard, Top Gun. Legendary roles. Legendary career. And a beloved UNLV professor. R.I.P."

Screenwriter Ben Trebilcook typed: "Sad to learn of the passing of Professor Clarence Gilyard.

"A terrific actor, too, whom of course played Theo in #DieHard, a surviving character I brought back in my Die Hard 6. "Sending thoughts and prayers to his family at this time. #clarencegilyard."

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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